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What Hillary Clinton Still Gets Wrong About Muslim Voters

Echoing statements from her previous debates, Hillary Clinton continues to defend Muslim-Americans while also making many feel as though their status as good Americans depends on how much information they can provide to counter extremism.
Screengrab via NBC / YouTube

Throughout 2016's seemingly never-ending presidential race, Donald Trump's anti-Muslim and Islamophobic comments have been the foundation of many of his policies. Most recently, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway boasted a "five-point plan to defeat Islam" should Trump win this election. In fact, in a study released by Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding last May, Trump's rhetoric has influenced one of the largest spikes in Islamophobic attacks since 9/11.


In reaction to Trump's anti-Muslim comments, Clinton has often responded by showing solidarity with American Muslims. In the aftermath of the Orlando shootings, Clinton rebutted Trump's proposed Muslim ban by saying, "It goes against everything we stand for as a nation founded on religious liberty." While Trump's calls for deporting all Muslims have been well documented, Clinton's own anti-Muslim rhetoric has flown under the radar. Yet some Muslim advocates say her remarks remain a real threat for Muslim-Americans.

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During Wednesday night's final presidential debate, Clinton echoed comments about the Muslim American community from previous debates—implying that Muslims in America hold some kind of secret knowledge to help combat terrorism. She said the US needed to work "with American Muslim communities who are on the front lines to identify and prevent attacks." Previously, in the second debate, she went as far as to say, "We need American Muslims to be part of our eyes and ears on our front lines." On social media, Muslims responded by wondering exactly how many other groups are held accountable to such an extent.

In an interview with Reuter, FBI spokesman Andrew Ames confirmed Muslim Americans do in fact frequently report suspicious behavior to authorities. However, as an in-depth investigation from Buzzfeed News revealed, the citizenship status of many Muslim Americans depends on them becoming informants in their own community. With accounts of green card holders being approached by Homeland Security to spy on their communities, Muslims living in America who already fear Islamophobic attacks have much more to worry about.

When asked about Clinton's comments, Robert McCaw, Director of Government Affairs at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told Broadly they set a dangerous precedent for Muslim communities should she win the election. "This is just generally unacceptable to say the inherent value of American Muslims is only in the frame of national security. American Muslims improve this nation on a daily basis," he said. A recent survey conducted by CAIR revealed that the vast majority of Muslims still support Clinton over Trump and his hardline policies to ban Muslims from entering the country. For some, it's the choice between a candidate who wants to ban them or a candidate who wants to use them as foot soldiers.

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Her contradictory messages—of claiming to value Muslim Americans, followed by allusions to them having information that can thwart attacks—also doesn't help counter the Islamophobic rhetoric of GOP members who make blanket statements about all Muslims being potential threats. It's been proven the threat of non-Muslim extremists is greater than the threat of any jihadist in America; only last week, a group of men in Kansas were arrested for plotting to bomb an apartment complex home to Somali refugees as well as a mosque.

"It's very frustrating when [Clinton] stands up against broad brush attacks against Muslims and the next moment she says our only value… to the nation rests on us being a national security asset," McCaw says. "It stigmatizes Muslims. Somehow we're here to fight the war on terror. I don't remember being deputized."