By Ramzy Baroud
Donald Trump wants to keep us out of the country altogether. But Bill Clinton, former president and husband of a Democratic presidential nominee, does not mind us staying, as long as we – Muslims – behave ourselves.
Welcome to America where racial profiling is the country’s most popular idea, and where citizenship is now conditioned on blind obedience.
This is what Clinton said at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on 26 July: “If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together, we want you.”
If this is America’s new social contract, I refuse to sign, and I think millions of Muslims – and non-Muslims, for that matter – should refuse to endorse it, too.
Oddly, the Democrats were meant to juxtapose Republican rhetoric – racist, anti-Muslim, anti-black, anti-everyone else who does not look or sound like them – with a more conciliatory language.
Yet this is the best that Bill Clinton could come up with.
But what if we, Muslims and others, entirely disagree with Clinton’s definition of “terror”? And what if the “freedom” he is offering us is deceptive doublespeak? What if we want to take part in building an America that has no space for corrupt politicians like him and his wife?
Does it follow that millions of us are simply not wanted in this country? To leave and, regardless of who wins in November, to never come back?
The crowd roared when Clinton recited his denigrating conditions on Muslim citizenship, and, notably, this is the more “progressive” segment in American society.
How is this going to help the already charged situation, anyway?
According to the results of a 2015 Economist/YouGov poll, a majority of Americans believe that Islam encourages violence more than any other religion. Republicans are particularity anti-Muslim (74 per cent shared these views) but a sizable number of Democrats (41 per cent) hold such toxic ideas about Islam and its followers, as well.
Sure, one can understand how the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 contributed to this massive misconception. But is it fair to forget that millions of Muslims have perished in America’s seemingly endless wars, interventions and foreign policy debacles, decades before that date?
Bill Clinton’s own legacy has proven most deadly to Muslims. The Iraq sanctions, which he sustained, in addition to his constant bombing of that country have caused hundreds of thousands of Muslims to perish.
Yet, instead of apologising to Muslims, this conceited millionaire politician had the audacity to condition the presence of American Muslims in their own country on a laundry list of slogans.
Does Bill Clinton know that the majority of victims of terrorism are, in fact, Muslims?
His speech writer should have at least checked on the US government’s own records. According to a 2011 report issued by the US government’s National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), “Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 per cent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.”
In fact, with the advent of so-called Daesh (which was spawned from Al-Qaeda and which materialised in Iraq only after the US invasion of that country in 2003) the percentage of Muslim victims must be far higher.
As if American Muslims have not already suffered tremendously; they have been victims of racial and religious discrimination and violence for years. The media has been nothing but a hate fest targeting them, their core values and loyalty to their own country. Many of them are constantly being singled out as if they do not belong or cannot be trusted.
This is not an issue of mere societal perception based on media disinformation but is, in fact, cemented in US law, starting with the “Secret Evidence” law in 1996 and the USA Patriot Acts that followed.
The unfortunate fact is that Muslims are victims of terrorism in more ways than one, including when their countries are attacked and destroyed by western interventions (Iraq, Libya and Syria); when they fall victim to revengeful, misguided violence (nearly one third of Nice, France attack victims were Muslims); and when they are wholly victimised and stereotyped by western media as the source of terror.
This sad, vicious cycle keeps on occurring every single day and innocent Muslims are paying the highest price for it. It is no surprise then that many American Muslims were disheartened by Bill Clinton’s disingenuous “counter offer” for Muslims to stay in “his” country.
But the danger in Clinton’s discourse goes beyond Muslims, into the kind of intellectual tyranny that was also espoused by George W. Bush after September 11 2001. “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” he had said.
Both Clinton and Bush used the pronoun “us” in their ultimatums. But since “they” represent powerful, rich families who command massive, unrelenting war machines, not only Muslims but everyone else should be very concerned.
In a broader sense, these ultimatums do not only target Muslim Americans but any independent thinking non-conformist as well.
“In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service,” wrote influential philosopher John Stuart Mill in “On Liberty”.
America’s political elites never cease referencing old script of intellectual giants that influenced their country but, in reality, they live by entirely different standards.
Clinton’s statement at the DNC was, in fact, a call for conformity, along with an ominous subtext:
“If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together…”
And since the Democratic Convention had little room for dissent or nonconformists, no one had the chance to respond to Clinton’s statement, right there and then. Nonetheless, this is my response:
Dear Bill Clinton,
Yes, I am a Muslim, but I don’t love the America you stand for and represent, but an America that is both peaceful and inclusive.
Yes, I love freedom too, but not your freedom which violates international law, continues to wage war at will, to further increase the income disparity between rich and poor, to violate the sanctity of an elected office and to wreak havoc upon an already devastated, suffering world.
Yes, I hate terror, including the terror that you have inflicted upon the world: your “clean war” in Kosovo, your “Operation Desert Fox” in Iraq and Hillary’s war on Libya.
If I stay, I have no intention of helping you build a future for the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and abandoned, but demolish your own doing of a past and present that are rife with bloodletting abroad and inequality at home.
If I leave, I will seek a world that does not condition my being, my very liberty and right not to conform, on ultimatums and blind loyalty to a system so corrupt that it is willingly destroying itself for the sake of money and the fleeting illusion of power.
– Dr Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net