“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.” -Bill Clinton, DNC 2016
It’s not surprising that in his DNC speech, Bill Clinton, adopted and forwarded the simplistic “Good Muslim” vs. “Bad Muslim” dichotomy and was therefore widely criticized. Hillary supporters, those who have cared enough to respond, have argued that this is an over reaction because Bill had “good intentions.”
This charitable interpretation is expected as many see the current presidential race as an existential fight for the future of America and any criticism of Hillary or her husband, especially in the context of the campaign will be viewed as an attack. For my part I view Bill Clinton as a wily politician, who is aware in this instance of what he was saying and doing. He doesn’t see anything wrong or untoward in the mentality that lead him to utter the words he did. Ironically, it was a statement that could also easily have come out of the mouth of Donald Trump. So instead of differentiating himself from Trump and being inclusive of Muslim Americans, he ended up reinforcing prejudice and stereotypes.
By Peter Beinart, The Atlantic
[T]he worst moment of the speech came near its end, when Clinton began to riff about the different kinds of people who should join Hillary’s effort. “If you love this country, you’re working hard, you’re paying taxes, you’re obeying the law and you’d like to become a citizen, you should choose immigration reform over someone that wants to send you back,” he said. Fair enough. Under any conceivable immigration overhaul, only those undocumented immigrants who have obeyed the law once in the United States—which includes paying taxes—will qualify for citizenship. Two sentences later, Clinton said that, “If you’re a young African American disillusioned and afraid … help us build a future where no one’s afraid to walk outside, including the people that wear blue to protect our future.” No problem there. Of course African Americans should be safe from abusive police, and of course, police should be safe from the murderers who threaten them.
But in between, Clinton said something dreadful: “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.” The problem is in the assumption. American Muslims should be viewed exactly the same way other Americans are. If they commit crimes, then they should be prosecuted, just like other Americans. But they should not have to prove that they “love America and freedom” and “hate terror” to “stay here.” Their value as Americans is inherent, not instrumental. Their role as Americans is not to “help us win” the “war on terror.”
Whether Clinton meant to or not, he lapsed into Trumpism: the implication that Muslims are a class apart, deserving of special scrutiny and surveillance, guilty of terrorist sympathies until proven innocent. I think I understand where the formulation came from. In the 1990s, one of Clinton’s key New Democratic innovations was his insistence that with rights, come responsibilities: To receive government assistance, welfare recipients must work. If people commit crimes, the government will punish them harshly.