Biden’s use of “Inshallah” in the first Presidential debate was far more radical and meaningful than commentators have thus far appreciated.

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Biden to Trump: Inshallah we’ll see your taxes

“Inshallah,” an Arabic word that literally means “if God wills it,” expresses hope that something will come to pass in the future. The term can also be used to avoid committing to an action or equivocate, as in “I may do this in some unspecified future, but I’m not making any concrete promises.”

Biden’s use of “Inshallah” was spot on: in the stroke of a word, he conveyed that Trump’s promises to release his tax returns were utterly empty.

More radically, however, the Vice President’s use of a common Muslim expression to expose Trump as a liar mirrors and so inverts the latter’s own antagonism toward Muslim Americans. The context here is crucial: Trump, after all, stepped into the political spotlight by inciting hatred of Muslim Americans while casting the senior member of the Obama-Biden ticket as a secret devotee of Islam; given the dangers of this religion and its incompatibility with America, Trump implied, Obama was a man with foreign values and perfidious sympathies, a kind of Manchurian candidate working to betray and destroy America from within. …


From 2012 to 2016, the white “base” of the Republican party pivoted from free trade, fiscal prudence, a globally active military, and an unshakable commitment to NATO and our allies in Asia to protectionism, unbridled spending, isolationism, and Russophilia — all on a dime.

What has been consistent in the party’s rhetoric?

Republican leaders’ resignation to U.S. House candidates Marjorie Greene of Georgia and Laura Loomer of Florida points to the answer: ugly dog whistle politics stoking fear of any threat to racial hegemony. Initially spurned by the Republican party, Greene evokes the image of black and brown drug dealers and gangs and, abhorring the notion of Muslims in Congress, warns of an “Islamic invasion.” Loomer, a “proud Islamophobe” who has been banned from a number of social media sites and even ride-sharing services for her racist rants, holds similar positions. …


Tom Cotton’s rehearsal of the founding father’s acceptance of Southern slavery reveals a persistent pathology in American attitudes towards race

According to Tom Cotton, “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”

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The scars of Peter a whipped man who escaped slavery, Louisiana 1863

Cotton’s repetition of the phrase “necessary evil” here isn’t merely citational; it rehearses a defense of the founding fathers’ acceptance of slavery in the name of the union of the thirteen colonies. Rhetorically, he further defends the “necessity” of the institution by evoking the larger national evolution that ultimately resulted in emancipation: note the crucial, justifying “but” in his remarks. …


The brutal killing of George Floyd has prompted wide-ranging conversations about elements of systemic racism in our society. I want to flag one such element at the heart of our higher education system, perhaps to spur some conversations here and elsewhere with fellow academics.

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Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, cited in “A History of Grade Inflation,” New York Times, July 14, 2011

I have long suspected that grade inflation in the humanities marks a subtle and so all the more insidious contributor to the persistent racial hierarchy in our country. To begin with, the compression of grade ranges at the college level serves a certain class: students possessing the basic academic literacy that attends a privileged socioeconomic upbringing are all but guaranteed a B, B+, or even A- (student comments on sites like ratemyprofessor.com point to the ease of getting such grades) as long as they can complete and turn in the minimally required work. Because far more white students come from the middle and upper classes, they are more likely to benefit from this system than blacks. Grade inflation indeed lifts the vast majority of white students into the 3.3+ GPA category — a level that qualifies them for highly lucrative careers in business and law. …


Republicans like Tim Scott and Ben Carson assert that the killing of Rayshard Brooks is “different” and so, they imply, at least in some respects justifiable.

The implication is clear: disobey or run from the police and they have the right to shoot and kill you — even if they know you are not bearing a lethal weapon.

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It’s instructive to compare the killing of Brooks with the treatment of Joseph Parker, a white man who resisted arrest and assaulted a police officer in Massachusetts: “During a routine traffic stop in the early hours of Tuesday, Aug. 11, Joseph M. Parker of Wakefield, Massachusetts, allegedly jumped out of his car and punched a police officer in the face. …


Tom Cotton, with the silent consent of his colleagues, has threatened to “send in the military” into American cities, giving “no quarter” to violent actors in order to restore “order.” Trump has made similar statements.

Cotton, who has Presidential ambitions, proposes to deploy troops under a law from the early days of our Republic that allows a military response to an “insurrection.” But the acts of violence we have witnessed in no way represent a threat to the state, much less an organized revolution to overthrow the government. (See the definition of “insurrection.”)

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Troops Deployed in Washington, D.C.

If peaceful protestors have given cover to looting and anarchy, the fault lies not with law-abiding protestors, but rather in the social and political failures that prompted public demonstrations in the first place. Rather than overturn two centuries of democratic precedent and suspend our constitutional freedoms, politicians should address those underlying failures and build faith and trust with the citizenry — or resign and let others do a better job at problem-solving and leadership. …


Much of the discourse in the wake of the murder of George Floyd includs diplomatic or defensive references to the violence perpetrated by a few bad actors “on both sides.”

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There is a false equivalence here. The police force is an institution — an arm of the state meant to exercise legal violence as required to enforce the law. We are bound as citizens to condemn that institution when it engages in systematic and unlawful brutality, especially where a particular minority group suffers and even more so where that violence reflects a broader racialist pathology pervasive at all levels of our society. The intention of individual officers is beside the point; they are co-opted into a violent system driven by well-documented prejudices (a large percentage of Americans think African-Americans are lazy and violent; and many would rather hire a convicted white felon than an equally qualified black man with no criminal background.) The false equivalence between the police — an institution tasked not only to enforce the law, but also to monopolize (or nearly monopolize) the lawful use of force in the state’s interest — and particular violent protestors and looters serves only to minimize the institutionalized and systemic nature of the brutality against minorities and peaceful protestors and obstruct the institutional reforms and social change we desperately need. …


On behalf of the Muslim community, we stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. We completely reject this hate and this fear that outsiders seek to instill within our community, within our country.” This from Omar Suleiman, resident scholar at the Valley Ranch Islamic Center, at tonight’s beautiful multi-faith press conference in Dallas. I wish such events, which featured Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders as well as a number of local politicians, were broadcast or at least reported nationally.

The outpouring of support for the victims of the Orlando shootings from Muslim communities all over the country, including many gay Muslims, has been quite tremendous (see previous post). …


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The Mascot Newspaper, Late 19th century

In 1891 the New York Times, echoing the longstanding anti-immigrant sentiment of newspapers like The Mascot, expressed sympathy for a New Orleans mob that lynched nearly a dozen Italian-Americans. The Times immediately and with little evidence caricatured the Italian-Americans as “mafia” deserving of their extrajudicial fate.

According to writer David Pachioli, the lynching was in fact precipitated not by the mafia, but “by a rivalry between two groups of Italian dockworkers. When the city’s police chief was shot and killed shortly before he was to testify against one of these groups, Italian males in the city were rounded up indiscriminately. …


Putting aside its absurdity, what’s interesting about Trump’s statement that “Islam hates us” is that for him, as for many others, the category “us” or “we Americans” excludes Muslim Americans. Why would anyone think that millions of Muslims American citizens aren’t Americans?

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I was recently assured by a young political leader that “we Americans can’t win this fight without you Muslims.” To understand how it feels to be on the other end of that statement, substitute the word “Muslim” with a reference to any other group, eg. “We Americans can’t win this fight without you African Americans.” Or “without you Latinos.” …

About

Hassanaly Ladha

Hassanaly Ladha is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut.

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