The Yemeni American News
Joe Biden addressed Muslim-American voters on Monday, vowing to undo President Trump’s “Muslim Ban” on his first day in office if elected president.
Speaking to Emgage Action, a Muslim policitical action committee, the former vice president also pledged to support hate crime legislation and fight against the “unconscionable” rise of Islamophobia.
“If I have the honor of being president, I will end the Muslim ban on day one – day one,” Biden said. “I will work with Congress to pass hate crime legislation, like the Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act… and end racial and religious profiling.”
The proposed legislation is named after Khalid Jabara, an Arab American who was killed in a suspected hate crime in Tulsa in 2016, and Heather Heyer, who was killed by a white supremacist attack in Charlottesville in 2017.
The bill, which has been promoted by civil rights advocates including many Arab American groups, would improve hate crime reporting and provide grants for state-run hotlines to report incidents. It would also amend sentencing guidelines to require those convicted of hate crimes to “undertake educational classes or community service directly related to the community harmed by the defendant’s offense.”
Earning the Muslim vote
On Monday, Biden lauded the Muslim community, slamming Trump for fanning “the flames of hate”.
“Muslim communities were the first to feel Donald Trump’s assault on Black and brown communities in this country with his vile Muslim ban,” Biden said. “That fight was the opening barrage in what has been nearly four years of constant pressure and insults, and attacks against Muslim American communities.”
Trump passed the Muslim ban on his first week in office, imposing travel restrictions on several Muslim-majority countries. As a candidate, Trump had vowed to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
Biden, who will face off against Trump in the general elections in November, paid tribute to the memory of civil rights legend John Lewis who died late last week, recalling the late congressman’s advocacy against the Muslim ban.
“We lost the champion for civil rights of all people, a tireless advocate for making sure every single person could access the power of their vote,” Biden said. “The great congressman John Lewis… understood viscerally that the rights and freedoms of all people are connected. We’re all connected. No one is free, or other people are oppressed.”
Biden also said that he wants to “earn” Muslim Americans’ vote to rebuild better after Trump, vowing that he would never “scapegoat” the Muslim community. “I wish we were taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith,” he said.
On foreign policy
The presumptive Democratic nominee made brief remarks on foreign policy, Biden saying he would work with partners to meet “the moral demands and humanitarian crisis in Syria, Yemen and Gaza.”
“I’ll continue to champion the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to have a state of their own,” Biden said.
Palestinian and Arab American activists have criticized Biden over his unwavering support for Israel. The former vice president has ruled out conditioning aid to Israel to end the occupation. His campaign has also vowed to shield Israel at the United Nations and condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Biden had promised to reverse some of Trump’s anti-Palestinian policies and restore aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. But critics say such moves like these may not be an improvement, but rather upholding the status quo before Trump.
Biden’s Emgage speech was part of a virtual event titled Million Muslim Vote summit, featuring prominent Muslim-American politicians and public figures.
“This election cycle is going to be about bringing voices to the table that feel social and economic neglect, voices that feel maligned, that have been marching in the streets—and bringing voices to the table that often don’t get a seat at the table,” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said.
Biden is said to be the first presidential nominee of a major party to address a Muslim group.
“It shows us that you care about us and our values,” Khurram Wahid, Emgage’s co-founder, said. “It shows that you believe in us. Mr. Vice President, I want you to know that we believe in you. I know you are an empathetic human being.”