The Democratic Party formally nominated former vice president, Joseph Biden Jr. for the general election of the president of the U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 20. The formal nomination was preceded by several days of speeches that included ordinary members and senior party officials ranging from the 3 living former democratic presidents to members of congress. All emphasized the importance of the election and the dangers of carrying on with the current president in light of the crisis that the country is facing with the global pandemic.
For that reason, the convention was also held virtually via livestream with each speech being performed from separate locations. One speech particularly notable for American Muslims was that of Khizr Khan who had a very public dispute with Trump during the last election cycle despite Khan being the father of a gold-star recipient who died in Iraq. At the same time, some Muslims have been disappointed by the Biden campaign’s decision to disassociate themselves from the prominent Muslim American activist Linda Sarsour.
Khizr Khan was featured as the Virginia delegate tasked with nominating Joe Biden for the presidential nomination. According to The Independent, Khan is a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia and invoked the president’s widely-criticized response to white supremacist violence there as an example of his failure of leadership.
Regarding his own dispute with Trump, Khan said: “We were attacked again when Donald Trump praised those racists, turning his back on a community that just wanted peace.”. He then went on to contrast this with his experience with Biden whom Khan described as “He’s a decent, compassionate man. He will bring this nation together”.
Khan further drew on his own experience under dictators as a warning of what could be should Americans choose to return Trump to the White House in November, “have lived under authoritarians. This is the first thing they do, media is [the] enemy of the people. The free press has no room in their rule of law, in their authoritarian regime, because they expose the corruption”. Despite this well-received gesture, many Muslims in America remain dissatisfied with how the Biden campaign treated Linda Sarsour.
The same week of the nomination, the Biden campaign distanced themselves from Linda Sarsour despite her work to have him elected in November. After Sarsour offered advice for the Biden campaign to gain the Muslim vote, especially in key swing states.
Not too long after, senior Biden campaign official Andrew Bates joined Trump’s condemnation of Sarsour by saying:“Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her (Sarsour’s) views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform”.
According to the Middle East Eye, “Sarsour’s support for BDS has made her a target of anti-Muslim activists, who have also tried to smear Democrats who associate with her.” Furthermore, several prominent Muslim organizations and individuals came to Sarsour’s defense.
A key organization for defending Muslim-civil rights said, “Our sister Linda Sarsour is an outspoken advocate of justice for all, including the Jewish community,” the statement said. “Smearing her and other American Muslims as anti-Semitic for supporting Palestinian human rights is predictable, despicable and unacceptable. Our political leaders must stop doing it.”
Furthermore, CAIR’s director Nihad Awad said while Muslims want Trump out of office, their votes should not be taken for granted by any politician, and they should not so recklessly accuse them of bigotry if they want their support. Furthermore, several activists said that the statement of the Biden campaign was an example of Islamophobia on the left. These are two important developments regarding the relationship between Muslims and the presidential campaign this week.