Perspective: Bill Clinton: Willing to Allow Muslims to Stay in America If They Meet Certain Conditions?

Print This Article Print This Article


By Muqtedar Khan

Watching the Republican convention was like watching a horror show with a critical caveat. The monsters were real! No American presidential candidate in recent years has so alienated and frightened American Muslims as Donald Trump has. So, I waited for the Democratic convention with great hope for unity, inclusiveness and positivity.

But Bill Clinton’s speech really got to me.  I listened to Clinton’s speech as a big fan and someone who has met him on a number of occasions, knowing he would include Muslims in some positive form in the speech itself. One exchange in particular always remains in my memory when he summarized, quite accurately, the constitution of Medinah. Clinton in his second term also reached out to American Muslims more than any President before him.

But late last night in his speech at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia he made a comment about American Muslims that left me puzzled.  “If you’re a Muslim and you love America and you love freedom and hate terror,” he said, “stay here and help us win and help us make a future together. We want you” (emphasis added). No doubt he intended to convey to Muslims, and the rest of America, the contrast between Donald Trump’s exclusivist, neofascist attitude towards Muslims, and Hillary Clinton’s progressive, supportive and inclusive stance towards all minorities including American Muslims, but the one line that mentioned Muslims may have fallen far too short, and even dangerous in repeating the same patterns as other Islamophobes during this election cycle. The former wishes to ban us, and the latter…well this may be the issue I’m struggling with.  The message stated by Clinton is we, American Muslims, can stay here if we love America and freedom and hate terrorism. How generous!


The implication of his statement is that American Muslims are trying to leave, and he is urging us to stay.  And yet, American Muslims have been here for centuries now. Many of the slaves who built this country were Muslims forced to hide or leave their faith. Secondly, why the conditions? And why only while speaking about Muslims would he mention the word terror?  Perhaps he could have taken a page from the speeches given by President Obama who on numerous occasions has acknowledged that Islam and Muslims have been an integral part of America, from the beginning and American Muslims have and continue to contribute to American economy, culture and its much touted greatness.

The problem with the semantics of What Clinton said in his speech is that it borrows the Islamophobic assumptions that have plagued American political arena in the past several months. This was a good opportunity for Bill to push back against it and shift the conversation. Unfortunately, he framed his arguments within the same parameters of the Islamophobic discourse employed by Trump which treats Muslims as unwelcome foreigners.

Arguably, in one stroke, Bill Clinton has erased all the gains made under President Obama. We have gone from being an integral part of America to we can stay if we meet certain conditions. In this election season we have not only seen the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats but also between the Obamas and the Clintons.  Let’s hope that  Hillary Clinton can include Muslims in her speech tomorrow that does not fall in to the same semantic traps as others during this election season.

Muqtedar Khan is Professor at the University of Delaware and Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Policy. His website is and he tweets at



  • Latest comments on TIM

  • About the autor
    The Islamic Monthly Staff


    Latest at tim

    See our Current issue

    Join our Newsletter

    Enter your e-mail address below to receive periodic updates from The Islamic Monthly.

  • Follow us on

    • Lance

      “Meet certain conditions” like NOT being a terrorist, like NOT working to impose illiberal bigotry/authoritative control? Sounds right to me.

    • normaann1992

      As a Muslim, I am ashamed that you could not take this as it was meant. He was pointing out that Hillary’s view and the views of most Democrats is for not only other minorities but with the Muslims living in this country as solid Americans. I love America and I understood his intent. Look for positives and stop looking for something that just wasn’t there.

      • Haggy

        I think being ashamed is carrying it a bit too far. Considering how many offensive remarks are made all the time, it’s not surprising that people get offended, and there’s nothing wrong with pointing out that Clinton came across that way. I agree it’s much better to say that you understood and appreciate what he meant while pointing out that he left out Muslims who are Americans when he addressed the ones Trump doesn’t want coming into the country.

        The risk is that the bigots of the world will look at it as if Clinton is giving into people they view as terrorists, and that Muslims are ungrateful for it. When dealing with irrational people, any negative comments will be taken out of context.

    • Haggy

      I got the feeling that this was addressing Muslims who Trump said aren’t welcome into the US, not Americans. Yes, he could have put it better, and should have put it better. You can look at how it came across to Muslims, how it came across to anybody else who kept hearing from the other party that Muslims aren’t welcome to come to the US, and you can consider what he meant. Concluding that he doesn’t consider all Americans as American regardless of religion seems far fetched.

    • LeseMajeste

      The ones who are really behind these recent terror attacks, are the same ones that masterminded 9/11 and will not stop until they turn the USA into a carbon-copy of Apartheid Israel.
      If you think Hillary is going to be friendly towards the Islamic world, think again. She knows who’s been backing her campaign and who owns Wall Street and it ain’t Muslims.

    • asdfffffffff

      It is you who is making false assumptions. Bill wasn’t talking about American Muslims. The previous sentence was: “And so I say to you, if you love this country, you’re working hard, you’re paying taxes and you’re obeying the law and you’d like to become a citizen, you should choose immigration reform over somebody that wants to send you back.”
      He’s talking about non-resident foreigners. His next sentence is “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.” Clearly not directed at Americans. Over half of the growth of Islam (1% of population) in the USA is from immigration (Source: Pew). So this is not specious in any way. Should we allow non-resident foreigners who hate America and sympathize with terrorism to stay in the USA? Would any country allow and be blind to this?

    • Minnie Fellini

      Whoa, professor. Hold your horses. You are obviously overthinking this statement. Bill Clinton didn’t say “CAN stay”….those are your words, which you casually insert into the dialog, then use to build a great big fat false premise. He’s not even addressing American Muslims, another blaring oversight on your part. As a professor, you of all people should realize the folly of taking comments out of context when trying to prove a point.

      Bill Clinton is merely acknowledging how crucial the role ALL Muslims, both stateside and abroad, play in fighting the global war on (wait for it….) TERROR or, more specifically, against fundamental Islamic jihadist groups whose carnage is currently strewn all over Europe and whose butchery by cyber-recruits makes periodic appearances here in the US.

      Make no mistake about this. Democrats, the Clintons included, go to great lengths to carefully and consistently draw sharp and precise distinctions between jihadists, a tiny politicized minority who pervert Islamic teachings and principles, and peaceful Muslim populations at large. The party embraces America’s diversity, which it considers to be one of the nation’s greatest assets. It makes every effort to root out and expose bigotry at every turn and takes the concept of equality under the law extremely seriously.

    • Yes, it was not the correct way to put it, listing conditions, yet I don’t agree with “in one stroke, Bill Clinton has erased all the gains made under President Obama”. Everyone is contributing, out of believing in the American values, and if some made mistakes then it’s just mistakes.