Joe Biden wants Islam taught more in schools, decries 'rise in Islamophobia'

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at Wilson High School on October 26, 2019, in Florence, South Carolina.
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at Wilson High School on October 26, 2019, in Florence, South Carolina. | Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden said Monday that he wants schools in the U.S. to teach more about Islam and claimed that there is an “unconscionable rise in Islamophobia” under the Trump administration.

"I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith,” Biden, a Catholic, said during his video remarks played at the “Million Muslim Votes” summit organized by the Muslim American political action committee Emgage Action. 

“I wish we talked about all the great confessional faiths. [Islam is] one of the great confessional faiths. What people don't realize is ... we all come from the same root here, in terms of our fundamental basic beliefs. I just want to thank you for giving me the opportunity for being engaged, for committing to action this November.”

Emgage Action boasts of being the “political home for Muslim Americans" and endorsed Biden in April after initial endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the Democratic presidential primary. 

“Donald Trump has fanned the flames of hate in this country, across the board, through his words, his policies, his appointments, his deeds and he continues to fan those flames,” the 77-year-old Biden, who served as vice president under former President Barack Obama, said. “Under this administration, we have seen an unconscionable rise in Islamophobia, including kids being bullied at school and hate crimes in our communities.”

Biden also claimed that Trump “has named people with open Islamophobia … who have no business serving in high positions in our government to key leadership roles in our Department of Defense [and] the U.S. Agency for International Development.” 

“It is an insult to our values, it weakens our standing in the world,” Biden said. “What message does this send to the rest of the world?”  

Despite calling out administration officials he accused of being Islamophobic, Biden mentioned nothing in his speech about confronting the presence of radical Islamic extremist groups that are responsible for the killing of thousands around the world. 

Biden praised Emgage Action for its effort in getting 1 million Muslim voters to show up to vote in November. 

“You are doing what has never been done before,” Biden said. “It matters. Your voice is your vote. Your vote is your voice.” 

Biden admitted that the voice of Muslim Americans have not always been recognized or represented in the fashion that “it deserves.” 

He went on to say that “this is the most important election in modern American history.”  

Biden also asserted that Muslim communities “were the first to feel Donald Trump’s assault on black and brown communities in this country with his vile Muslim ban.” 

The so-called Muslim ban was an executive order during the first days of the Trump administration in 2017 that temporarily halted immigration and refugee resettlement from several Muslim-majority countries that failed to meet “minimum security and information-sharing requirements.” The order was opposed by immigration and refugee advocacy groups. 

“That fight was the opening barrage in what has been nearly four years of constant pressure and insults and attacks against Muslim American communities, Latino communities, black communities, AAPI communities, Native Americans,” Biden said of the Trump administration’s travel bans.  

Biden vowed to “end the Muslim ban on day one.” Biden also vowed to work with Congress to pass hate crime legislation and legislation to end racial and religious profiling by federal law enforcement agencies. 

As Trump has built up relationships with several national leaders and strongmen around the world, such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Biden vowed that he “won’t be writing any love letters to dictators.” 

Biden also said his administration would work with international partners to meet the demands of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Yemen and Gaza. He also said that he would continue to push for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

He further declared that as president, he would seek out and incorporate the ideas of Muslim Americans “on everyday issues that matter most to our communities.” Biden said he would include having Muslim American voices as part of his administration.

“I want to make sure your voices are included in the decision-making process as we work to rebuild our nation,” Biden said. 

The former Delaware senator said he is not just asking for Muslims' support but stressed that he wants to “earn” their vote. 

Biden’s comments on wanting to see more Islam taught in public schools come as many public school districts around the country already include units on Islam in high school and, in some cases, middle school social studies class. 

Biden’s comment drew the ire of some Christian conservatives on social media. 

"’Basement Biden’ should have stayed in basement,” conservative author and radio host Wayne Allyn Root wrote in a tweet. 

“Outside of radical Dementia-crats, his comments scare the be-Jesus out of Americans. ‘Teach Islam in schools.’ No wonder they keep him in basement. The more he talks, the more he horrifies Silent Majority,” he added.

Christian Broadcasting Network analyst David Brody opined on Twitter that Biden’s comment will help Trump “immensely” in 2020. 

“Christianity and its history/values are being eliminated/distorted in public schools and @JoeBiden wants MORE teachings on Islam?” Brody asked. 

Also speaking at the summit was controversial activist Linda Sarsour, a Muslim of Palestinian descent who was a founding board member of the Women's March movement before leaving the board after accusations of antisemitism.

The Anti-Defamation League reports that Sarsour holds "positions that delegitimize Israel." Sarsour has in the past reportedly praised one of the alleged unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, and referred to him as a mentor.

Also speaking at the conference was controversial pro-BDS Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. 

"Biden has a lot of work to do to win the hearts of young Muslim Americans who were core to Bernie’s campaign," Sarsour wrote in a Twitter thread. "They are anti-war, pro-Palestinian, pro-Abolition of ICE & support defunding of police. They care about Rohingya, Uighur Muslims, Kashmir, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen & Syria."

"I choose Biden. But I choose him as my opponent in the White House," Sarsour added. "I want him to defeat Trump so we can mobilize our movements to hold him accountable and push him to do and be better. We can’t do that with Trump."

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