by Saif Hamideh
On Monday, all across America, Muslim Americans gathered with their friends and family to watch the first presidential debate. In a campaign season where Donald Trump has made muslim support a wedge issue, American Muslims have felt a greater need to be engaged in electoral politics.
Muslims were the second most mentioned minority group in Monday night’s debate behind African-Americans. Trump also seemed to shift his ire away from Mexican-Americans, spending the night criticizing the Mexican government.
Initially, Secretary Clinton made inroads with American Muslims when she shared the personal stories of her father’s small business and how Trump has taken advantage of numerous small businesses for personal gain. Trump flaunted his business indiscretions as smart business practices. A large portion of the American Muslim’s are small business owners or grew up in households which relied on a small business for income. These families know that business losses aren’t just corporate write-offs but legitimate threats to putting food on the table. Clinton is clearly familiar the dynamics and importance of owning and operating small businesses while Trump came off as out of touch.
Trump referenced muslims once again when he mentioned how muslims were allowed to become members of country club. Once again, Trump’s backhanded condescension further consternated American muslims watching the debate at home. Muslims having the right to pay exorbitant fees to play golf and drink over-sweetened Arnold Palmer’s is not by any means part of a progressive fight for muslim equality.
Later in the debate, Clinton underscored the need for cooperation with both Muslim Nations and American Muslims in fighting terror both at home and abroad signaling the inclusion of Muslim Americans in Clinton’s future road map. Although it remains unclear in which how these relationships would function, Muslim Americans are generally pleased to see that both the work and risks which Muslims take on every day be acknowledged on such a public forum.
Compared to a news cycle so heavily concerned with Muslim issues, the debate focused more on broad policy stances and the previous experiences of both candidates as they argued to prove to who is more fit to lead. It remains to be seen whether muslim issues will once again come to the forefront of the upcoming debates.