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Biden campaign accused of 'cosmetic' changes as pro-Modi aide remains

White House hopeful appoints new Muslim outreach coordinator but Amit Jani will remain in senior campaign role
Observers say Biden's bid to engage Muslims, who number around one percent of the population, might be too late (AFP)
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New York City

Joe Biden's presidential campaign has appointed a former aide to Hillary Clinton as senior advisor on Muslim American engagement following revelations that his predecessor has close ties to India's right-wing Hindu government.

The appointment of Farooq Mitha, a longtime Biden supporter and former Muslim advisor to the Clinton campaign in 2016, comes after weeks of pressure to remove Amit Jani as coordinator given his strong ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party.

Over the last 10 days, at least two petitions have been circulating calling on Jani to be removed from the White House Democratic hopeful's campaign team.

Last week, several Muslim-American political advisors were approached to help find a new Muslim aide in a process reportedly led in part by Mitha.

The Biden campaign has yet to officially announce Mitha's appointment, but Middle East Eye understands that Jani will continue in his current role as the campaign's Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) national vote director. 

Sources close to the campaign told MEE that Biden's aides would not want to risk alienating Hindu- Americans by removing Jani from staff.

Mitha directed all queries from MEE to Biden's press team, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

'Cosmetic staffing changes'

Mitha's appointment, revealed by The Muslim Observer on Sunday, has failed to satisfy the demands of many South Asian activists who say that Biden's campaign needs to sever all ties with individuals linked to right-wing movements.

Sharmin Hossain, the political director of Equality Labs, a South Asian organisation focusing on ending the oppression of marginalised groups, told MEE that Jani had to be fired immediately "to send a message to the country that Hindu nationalists do not have a seat at the table of American democracy".

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"The campaign to fire Amit Jani is a piece of the puzzle, we need a public statement that Hindu nationalism and Islamophobia is not on the Biden agenda. We want policy platforms that actively take steps to address Hindu nationalist violence and Islamophobia."

Likewise, Lakshmi Sridaran, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organisation, told MEE that Islamophobic rhetoric and policy, whether coming from Hindu nationalists or white supremacists, impacted all South Asian-Americans "because they enable violence and justify discrimination against Muslims and those racialised as Muslim both in the United States and abroad".

Sridaran also called on the Biden campaign to take a clear stance on the No Ban Act, the federal legislation which would rescind the now expanded Muslim Ban.

"The Biden campaign must take a clear, public, and unequivocal position on the NO BAN Act and outline the substantive policy actions, not just cosmetic staffing changes they will take to confront Hindu nationalism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy going forward," Sridaran said.

Joe Biden will be ready on day one. No time for a learning curve after four years of chaos. We need a President who has...

Posted by Farooq Mitha on Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Though Mitha has joined the Biden campaign as a senior aide, he has been long associated with and been a surrogate for Biden's bid for The White House. 

Mitha held a campaign event for Biden in mid-February in which he reached out to Muslim Americans in Northern Virginia.

"Community members had a substantive discussion with former US Senator Chris Dodd and campaign advisor Brian McKeon about issues that matter to the community from healthcare to the economy and immigration," Mitha said in a Facebook post.

Observers say that Biden's bid to engage Muslims, who number around one percent of the population, might be too late, especially in comparison to Senator Bernie Sanders' outreach efforts.

A number of American Muslim groups have endorsed Sanders, including Emgage, a Muslim political action committee where Mitha sits on the board.