News & Politics

Hillary Clinton's Anti-Islamophobia Campaign Is Nothing but Veiled Opportunism

The Democratic frontrunner has praised George W. Bush for his post-9/11 response to Islamophobia.

Photo Credit: Lucas Cobb/Flickr CC

Since the Paris attacks in November we’ve seen an alarming increase in cases of anti-Muslim abuse, from violent physical assaults to the firebombing of mosques. Despite this, inciteful political rhetoric has become more audacious and gone on to help develop a heightened state of hysteria. While the response of many right-wing political figures in the United States has been more stammering against "all violence," Hillary Clinton has been celebrated for a noticeably contrasting position.

Hillary Clinton has responded directly to rising GOP jingoism with inclusive rhetoric, calling Muslim-Americans “brothers and sisters” and refusing to use the term "radical Islam," arguing that it "sounds like we are declaring war against a religion." At cursory view this appears to be a meritorious rejection of prevailing sentiment, but upon further examination of Clinton’s policies, this bold refrain presents itself as shameless opportunism.

One of the clearest examples is Clinton’s political relationship with General Wesley Clark. Long before Donald Trump’s bigoted provocations, Clark, retired general of the United States Army and former NATO supreme Allied commander in Europe, appeared on MSNBC in July arguing in favor of interning Muslims who are “disloyal” to the United States as a means to pre-empt terror attacks. “If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the [war on terror],” Clark argued.

In 2007 and again in 2013, Clark threw his support behind Hillary, who he endorsed in part for her role as Secretary of State. "When Hillary Clinton took over as Secretary of State, America’s image around the globe was badly damaged," Clark wrote in an email. “Since then, we’ve ended the war in Iraq. We’re winding down in Afghanistan. We decimated Al-Qaeda’s leadership, and helped democracy grow in the Middle East." Despite Clark’s call for the revival of internment camps for the sake of incarcerating Muslims, Hillary Clinton has gone to exploit his endorsement of her campaign. On November 17, months after the MSNBC interview aired, the official Hillary Clinton Facebook page published a graphic featuring a laudatory quote by Clark. “A five-star review from a four-star general. Thank you, General Wesley Clark," the campaign responded.

Wesley Clark isn’t the only campaign patron actively furthering the Islamophobia industry. One of Clinton’s leading donors, billionaire Haim Saban, has given Clinton’s super PAC at least $2 million and recently suggested that Muslims should face “more scrutiny and that profiling of Muslims should be permissible. “The reality is that certain things that are unacceptable in times of peace — such as profiling, listening in on anyone and everybody who looks suspicious, or interviewing Muslims in a more intense way than interviewing Christian refugees —  is all acceptable [during war].”

Following a recent trend, Hillary Clinton has also gone on to praise George W. Bush for his post-9/11 response to Islamophobia. Six days after the September 11 attacks George W. Bush spoke at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., saying, among other things, that "Islam is peace." “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country...And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.” Yet the Bush administration that went on to torture and extrajudicially execute Muslims and deprive countless Muslims of their civil liberties.

Another arm of anti-Muslim bigotry is the drive for militarism, which both the Democrats and Republicans share, each using their own respective arguments in support of some variation of war-chasing. Hillary Clinton, lauded by progressives for her role as Secretary of State, pushed for escalating the war in Afghanistan, attempted to pressure Obama into maintaining U.S. troop presence in Iraq, voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 and again to reauthorize it in 2006, and pledged to further arm Israel while also threatening Iran.

The expansion of U.S. belligerence across much of the world has funneled billions into the arms and defense industry as well as aided local and national policy-makers in normalizing anti-Muslim enmity by way of surveillance programs, the banning of Shari’a law, and the recruitment of native "terror informants." The more entrenched the U.S. military becomes the easier it will be for Muslims, both local and abroad, to be otherized for sake of fighting terror. That the most basic of human rights are now being debated by candidates vying for an opportunity to become the next Commander in Chief has yet to genuinely register with either political camp, especially not those pardoning Clinton’s hawkishness.

Anti-Muslim animus goes far beyond ornamented stenographers to power obsessing over the statements of Donald Trump. It is systematic, and often cloaked in the language of humanitarian hyper-militarism and even inclusion. Despite Hillary Clinton’s sentimental rhetoric, her policies and political affiliations are concrete and show that she has never been a friend to Muslims, nor will her administration be one.

Roqayah Chamseddine is a researcher for teleSUR's EmpireFiles, a poet and a freelance writer. Follow her at @roqchams.

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