Bill Clinton attempted to reach out to Muslims on Tuesday and ended up slapping them.
Former president Clinton said during his Democratic convention speech, “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.”
Clinton probably meant nothing insulting or harmful toward Muslims with this statement.
And similar comments are endless.
The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart put the anger into context:
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.
Democrats have blasted Trump’s Muslim ban proposal as unnecessary bigotry. But former President Clinton really did appear to say something along the same lines, in terms of how Muslims should be viewed and perhaps treated.
Trump’s anti-Muslim bias is explicit. Clinton’s less so, but it was still there.
We can be sure Bill Clinton didn’t mean it that way. The way it was used in the speech make clear he intended to have the opposite effect.
I didn’t understand his words in that way when he said it. It was only after seeing the reaction from Muslim Americans that it sunk in. It quickly became obvious they had a point. As Beinart noted, “Clinton’s formulation was like saying, in 1964, that as long as African Americans eschew violence and love America, they deserve the right to vote.”
There is a problem with too much political correctness in this country. If Donald Trump is right about anything, it’s probably that. We can and should discuss radical Islam without ignoring the word “Islam.”
But we should also be careful to not treat our countrymen as subpar or even the enemy. Particularly if that’s not what we really mean.
I would be surprised if Bill Clinton makes that mistake again.