PHILADELPHIA, United States – Few Arab or Muslim Americans expected Donald Trump’s coronation at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland to be a joyous affair. After three days in Pennsylvania’s sweltering heat, the Democratic shindig has proven similarly underwhelming.
US television networks have highlighted the lacklustre support grassroots activists from both main parties have afforded their nominees: Trump, a tough-talking New York tycoon, and his Democratic rival, the career politician Hillary Clinton.
But the subtext – that Trump’s bashing of Muslims, Mexicans and other groups is countered by a Democratic “big tent” to shield all minorities, is increasingly being challenged by those attending the Democratic National Convention (DNC) here in Philadelphia.
While the RNC crowd in Cleveland was whiter, and without a niqab in sight, the politics are not so different at the DNC, Raed Jarrar, a policy analyst at the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, told Middle East Eye.
“The optics are different between the DNC and the RNC, which was less diverse, but the actual policies between the two parties are, unfortunately, almost identical,” said Jarrar, a Washington-based blogger.
Jarrar and others highlight the Democratic platform, or manifesto, which continues to prioritise the rights of Israelis over Palestinians, despite the efforts of Clinton’s former Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, to treat both sides in the decades-old conflict equally.
But what really bugged Muslims this week was Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee’s husband and former president, who started riffing at the tail-end of an impassioned speech about why Americans should send his wife back to the White House.
“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 said, naming the various groups with a stake in a Democrat-led America.
Though seemingly harmless, it jarred with many Muslims because it seemingly accepted an assumption that they must work harder to show patriotism than others – a touchy subject in the wake of post-9/11 racial profiling and police raids on mosques.