As a Muslim American woman with a political science degree, I've never felt comfortable supporting a presidential candidate before Bernie.
Making the Case
With the looming threat of a Trump re-election on the horizon, it is vitally important for Muslims in America to become politically active and engaged. No matter how cynical or apathetic we may be inclined to feel, American political realities affect the life circumstances of vulnerable people throughout the world. In this article, I'll be exploring a few of the reasons Bernie Sanders is the sole candidate worthy of the support of every politically conscious Muslim.
Green New Deal
When we advocate for climate justice in 2020, it isn't merely a matter of loving sea turtles and dolphins. In reality, climate change is one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. Many of those hardest hit by the present climate crisis are impoverished people living in the global east.
Natural disasters, heat waves, and droughts have intensified in both frequency and severity worldwide, claiming thousands of lives annually. Thousand—if not millions—of vulnerable people will soon become climate refugees, as their homelands are gradually becoming unlivable and their livelihoods are permanently threatened due to climate change. This is to say nothing of the horrific effects on wildlife, such as the devastating bushfires in Australia that have killed nearly 500 million animals, or the escalating likelihood of clean water shortages in the near future, as a direct result of unsustainable consumption habits that have become globalized.
Vote Against Climate Change Denial
A popular point of contention among Muslim Americans is that both major political parties are deeply entrenched in morally objectionable interests. While this is an undeniable reality, the minute ethical differences that still exist as a result of the Democratic Party's progressive wing offer sufficient reason to remain politically invested.
Much of the Republican Party still openly denies climate change, while the progressive wing of the Democratic Party places a clear emphasis on the need for a transition toward clean renewable energy, the enforcement of critical regulations to reign in the damage caused by the fossil fuel industry, and the devising of measures to reduce carbon emissions. It isn't a perfectly comprehensive solution, but the Green New Deal is an essential start. Climate justice is a key facet of human justice, and Muslims have a responsibility to educate ourselves on the welfare of this planet and vote accordingly.
American Foreign Policy
Aside from climate change, American foreign policy is one of the most critical areas of ethical concern for Muslims. Over the past century, the U.S. government has been responsible for covertly and overtly engaging in mass political interference, military imperialism, and destabilization in over 35 sovereign nations. In recent years, this trend has persisted as the U.S. has continued to foment political unrest, promote bad faith arguments and life-threatening sanctions against nations that refuse to fall in line, and has proudly allied itself with oppressive governments, openly fueling human rights atrocities through the sale of weapons, lucrative trade deals, and foreign aid to repressive states such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Progressive members of the Democratic party—most notably Bernie Sanders—remain among the courageous few who are willing to shed light on the U.S. government's crimes against humanity and the unchecked horrors wrought by American imperialism.
Medicare for All
Of the many factors that may be preventing a successful progressive revolution from taking root in America, perhaps the most significant is that even as countless people are suffering, many are living comfortably under the present status quo, and may not feel sufficiently motivated to advocate for change.
But our own comforts and privileges should never blind us to the suffering of our fellow human beings. To borrow a phrase from Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Sistani, our brothers and sisters in humanity are our own selves, and their suffering should wound us as deeply as our own. We cannot, in good conscience, support the perpetuation of a system in which the well-being of millions of human beings is an afterthought as wealthy global elites continue to enrich themselves on the backs of the working class.
Enough Is Enough: Healthcare in America Must Improve
It should be enough to state that there are parents currently serving time in jail due to unpaid medical debts; it should be enough to state that medical debt and financial insolvency has driven countless Americans to suicide; it should be enough to state that untold numbers of people have died due to preventable causes in recent years, simply because they couldn't afford essential life-saving medicine or routine medical visits.
It should be enough to state that as we stare into the face of a potential global pandemic with a mortality rate ten times that of the seasonal flu, our crumbling healthcare infrastructure puts us directly in the crosshairs of mass contagion. Our greed-fueled political system has already caused millions of deaths worldwide. How many millions of Americans will die as a result of this system's indifference to the sanctity of human life?
So, Why Should Muslims Vote for Bernie?
There is much to be said about the gradual corporate takeover of our political system. So many of our society's most deeply-rooted evils: the military industrial complex, the private prison industry, the role of big pharma in the perpetuation of the opioid crisis, the monopolization of media ownership, the exploitative healthcare infrastructure that values corporate profit over human life, the egregious human rights violations being committed in concentration camps at the border, as well as those being enabled and funded abroad, largely stem from the fact that lobbyists and interest groups have purchased an overwhelming majority of our elected officials and have gained an interminable foothold in the creation of policy.
This insidious corruption runs so deep, it affects every facet of our lives; it has turned the government of the people into the government of the 1%. In 2020, we have a rare opportunity to shift this tide before it completely destroys us.
When assessing presidential candidates, my salient priority is to support the candidate who has proven him or herself least able to be purchased. The sole, overwhelming winner in that category is Bernie Sanders. Throughout his career as a public servant, Bernie has proven to possess a quality most politicians lack: consistent moral integrity. It doesn't make him charming or personable, it makes him a genuine, tireless advocate for the well-being of the American people, and a potential force for peace and progress throughout the world.
As a Muslim American woman, I have been passionately researching politics and foreign policy since childhood, majored in a sub-field of political science, and have never felt comfortable supporting or endorsing a mainstream presidential candidate. Bernie Sanders has changed that. His compassionate rhetoric, progressive policy platforms, and inter-sectional concern for the welfare of diverse groups of people make him a truly unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime politician.
We may not get this opportunity again, so please: vote for Bernie and support him with your time, resources, and advocacy. Talk to your friends, family members, neighbors, and communities about him. As young children, many of us dream of making the world a better place. In lending our support to Bernie’s historic grassroots movement, we may finally come one step closer to the realization of a more just, humane world. The battle ahead will be a difficult one as the Democratic establishment will likely stop at nothing to prevent his success, but Bernie’s continued momentum is proof that the will of the people still holds meaning in 2020.
© 2020 Rubab Zaidi