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Biden promises to end Trump's 'Muslim ban' on first day in office

Presumptive Democratic nominee urged Muslim Americans to vote, describing an unconscionable rise in Islamophobia under Trump
Joe Biden answers questions after speaking about the coronavirus pandemic and the economy on 30 June, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware (AFP)

Joe Biden has vowed that if elected president he will end President Donald Trump's so-called Muslim travel ban on his first day in office.

Speaking at a summit organised by the Muslim political action commitee Emgage, the presumptive Democratic nominee told delegates and audience members that "Muslim American voices matter" heading into November's presidential election.

"Muslim communities were the first to feel Donald Trump's assault on Black and brown communities in this country with his vile Muslim ban," Biden said.

"That fight was the opening barrage in what has been nearly four years of constant pressure and insults, and attacks against Muslim American communities."

One of Trump's first actions as president in 2017 was to sign an executive order severely restricting travel from seven Muslim majority nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, for 90 days.

'Trump has fanned the flames of hate in this country... through his words, his policies, his appointments and his deeds'

- Joe Biden

Despite several lawsuits, the Supreme Court upheld the ban in 2018, ruling in favour of Trump's executive power to control immigration.

In his address, Biden took aim at the president over the sharp increase in hate crimes, particularly against Muslims, accusing Trump of making a "mockery of what we stand for."

"Trump has fanned the flames of hate in this country... through his words, his policies, his appointments and his deeds," said Biden.

"We can do something about it. I'm here today to ask you to join me in the fight to rip this poison from the government root and stem, or as the famous case said, root and branch."

According to a polling average by Real Clear Politics, Biden currently leads Trump by an average of 8.6 points.

While polling of Muslims is limited, a 2017 Pew Research survey found that two-thirds of US Muslims "identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party".

'Historic moment'

Introducing Biden, Khurram Wahid, Emgage's co-founder described the former Vice-President's address as a "historic moment".

"It shows us that you care about us and our values," Wahid said. "It shows that you believe in us. Mr Vice-President, I want you to know that we believe in you."

"I know you are an empathetic human being. Something I love most," Wahid said.

According to the Associated Press, several Muslim American politicians, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, signed a letter endorsing Biden prior to Emgage's "Million Muslim Votes" summit. AP noted that prominent Sanders surrogate - Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, had not signed the letter.

In February, Emgage endorsed Bernie Sanders but proceeded to back Biden once it became clear that the former vice-president would win the Democratic Party's presidential ticket.

However, earlier this year, Biden's campaign was criticised for appointing Amit Jani, a Hindu-American close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as his national director to the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, including Muslim Americans. Several prominent Americans signed a letter calling on Biden to fire Jani. 

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In March, Farooq Mitha, co-founder of Emgage and a former employee at the Department of Defense, was appointed as Biden's Muslim outreach officer. Jani stayed on his AAPI coordinator. 

According to Mitha, the campaign has hosted several events with Muslim Americans and met with several community leaders.

Though Mitha has cited his apppointment as an example of Biden's commitment to Muslim voters, several South Asian activists have told MEE that Jani's continued presence on the Biden's staff has left many Muslims uncomfortable with Biden's campaign.

Meanwhile, Palestinian-Americans who have engaged with Mitha say that Biden's staff were unwilling to answer specific questions on matters of policy. 

In June, several Palestinian-Americans staged a virtual walk-out during a meeting with Mitha, claiming that the Biden campaign was not taking the concerns of Palestinians seriously.

"We are being told we should be grateful that Biden is even recognising the Palestinian conflict. This is not how you get people to believe in your candidate.

"We are basically being told: 'It's either us or Trump, and if you don't vote for us, it will be your fault," Jinan Shbat, a Palestinian-American activist, said at the time.