The Muslim Future Under Biden

President-elect Joe Biden and his administration may be the Muslim community’s best chance at equality and inclusivity.

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I attended a local masjid, an Islamic school, between the ages five to 10. I had a friend at that masjid whose father owned a store blocks away. Both she and her father were kind and thoughtful—the father offered my family so many discounts for our “loyalty” that my own mother soon became annoyed at his generosity. One day, I received awful news. As the father was closing up his deli, a group of masked men brutally attacked him. They screamed a plethora of hateful slurs, but no one heard them. At least, we could only assume. Bruised and bloody, he was left to lie on the cold concrete until someone saw his state and called the police.

Despite this trauma, life quickly returned to a normal pace. Adults at the masjid made quiet remarks in Bengali, like, “You know, this is the work of all of those politicians. They hate us,” “what can we do to support them while our brother is beaten with no mercy?,” and “nothing will change unless the men in charge change.” Now the men in charge have changed. President-elect Joe Biden finally presents a hope for Muslims to face less prejudice and gain representation in government.

Tension in the United States toward Islamic practices escalated during Donald Trump’s term as president. Islamophobes had found a representative who painted Muslims as poisonous people seeking to reverse the progress of the country. But now that Biden is set to hold the office, many people in the Muslim community are hopeful that he will lower these tensions. While he will not be able to completely eliminate anti-Islam attitudes, president-elect Biden has the ability to improve this situation.

President Trump vocalized his hate for radical Islam and American Muslims over his entire term. He first rose to political prominence promoting a baseless conspiracy theory that Obama was born outside of the U.S. and therefore not eligible to be president. Trump escalated it further when he claimed that Obama was not releasing his birth certificate because it may state that he is Muslim. This accusation was not only racist against Obama, but also Islamophobic. Trump was, essentially, implying that the religion of Islam would disqualify Obama from holding the office. When Trump ran for president, one of his main campaign promises was the “Muslim ban” that prohibited travel from the Middle East and other Muslim majority countries. He implemented it in January 2017, signing an executive order to prohibit entry to foreigners from seven majority Muslim countries and halted Syrian refugees’ entry. This action prodigiously encouraged violence from Islamophobes throughout the nation. According to data from the Pew Research Center, attacks against Muslims from 2015 to 2016 surged in huge amounts, surpassing the record high in 2001.

Now, Joe Biden will have to stand by his beliefs and follow through with the Muslim people. Based on his recent actions, it seems to me that he may be on the route to doing just that.

Recently, Biden promised to eradicate the travel ban. One of Biden’s most notable statements on the ban was during Engage’s Million Muslim Voter initiative. His very presence there already speaks volumes about what he is focusing on. Biden’s action may have worked: throughout America, around 78 percent of eligible Muslims registered to vote in 2020, an improvement from the 60 percent in 2016. Perhaps more importantly, in October, he famously vowed to end the travel ban on his first day of presidency. “As president, I’ll work with you to rip the poison of hate from our society to honour your contributions and seek your ideas,” Biden said. “On day one, I’ll end Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban.” Biden is not the most capable president-elect to ever grace the nation by far, but compared to Trump’s fear-mongering habits, he is more invested in erasing the prejudice against Muslims. He represents the representation my community has been quietly begging for for so long.

Second, Joe Biden also encourages direct Islamic representation in our government. In 2019, there were only three Muslim representatives in Congress, compared to the millions that make up America’s total population— about 1.4 percent in 2015, which is expected to double by 2050. The Council on American-Islamic Relations found that the Islamic community in the United States is currently demanding a number of reforms. We desire the ability to make decisions for ourselves and to be treated as equals in the highest offices of the law. Biden recently promised to encourage and include Muslim Americans on every level of government and to hold his administration accountable when they make mistakes. Considering that Trump has worked hard for so long to discourage and villainize Muslims, Biden’s concern feels like a breath of fresh air at last. It is a symbol of hope that somehow, some day, we can slowly start to earn the equity we deserve.

Not all Muslims are Democrats, nor do we all support Biden. We have every reason to be skeptical of his optimistic words. Admittedly, I cannot possibly expect everything to change within the next four years. His policies are not nearly bold enough. However, the current lack of Muslim equality and inclusitivity does not warrant the government’s ignorance, and it does not excuse their hate.

Still, Biden’s victory is a signal of hope, a sign that life may actually begin to go our way. We have many ambitious goals: we want Syrian refugees not to be held at airports due to their religion. We want to see little children grow up knowing they have a chance at becoming senator or president. While Biden may not be the golden man who will liberate us, he is our best chance at progress. Meeting our goals may take years or decades, but I hope that Joe Biden will be the one to light the fire that sparks such progress.