The dramatic debate between Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in Brooklyn on April 14, in anticipation of the New York primaries on April 19, notwithstanding, the national conversations about the US presidential campaign has become positively predictable, if not punishingly boring – except for the grassroots mobilisation it has triggered that may one day change the shape of politics in this country.
Today, I think of the possibility of “democracy” in the US in exactly the way Gandhi is reported to have thought of “Western civilisation”: It would be a great idea.
On the Republican front, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are clean-shaven prehistoric cave-dwellers in business suits, while Hillary Clinton on the Democratic front is the dictionary definition of a chameleon – like a corrupt politician changing colour depending on which way the political wind blows but consistently representing mega-donors, big banks, and Super PACs without any moral scruples, while feigning that she cares about the poor and the disenfranchised.
Aspirations of decent Americans
In this presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders is the closest candidate to the aspirations of millions of decent Americans dreaming of a better future for their children while refusing to lend their name to an imperial republic that systematically arms the rich tyrants around the world, supports Israel stealing Palestine and murdering Palestinians one settlement at a time, and helps to create monstrosities such as ISIL.
Come April 19 New York primary, like millions of other New Yorkers, I intend to exercise my very fragile rights as a US citizen and go and vote for Bernie Sanders, doing my share and hoping he will beat Clinton and win the Democratic nomination.
Many Muslims would have sided with and voted for Bernie Sanders even if he were not Jewish.
I do so without any illusion that Bernie Sanders can alter the imperial DNA of this country, or that I am particularly enamoured by this liberal Zionist beating on the dead horse of a “two-state” delusion.
I intend to vote for Bernie Sanders conscious of a crucial development in the US Muslim community. This year is the first time that I will vote in a presidential election conscious of being a Muslim, and that consciousness is a significant event in the make-up of the US Muslim community at a time of intense Islamophobia.
I will not be the first nor the only Muslim voting for Sanders in the US. The fact that US Muslims are significantly siding with Senator Sanders has already made major headlines in the US.
There is, in fact, an entire Facebook page dedicated to “Muslims for Bernie Sanders 2016”. Leading Muslim scholars and intellectuals like Zareena Grewal and Donna Auston have also written eloquently as to “Why Muslim Americans should vote for Bernie Sanders”.
Reports indicate that “in less than three weeks, Bernie Sanders, being a friend of the Arab and Muslim American communities, has become legendary, and the support from this community of Sanders voters has been growing online since his March 8 victory in Michigan.”
The significance of US Muslims rallying behind Sanders as “the only Jewish candidate” should neither be exaggerated nor misinterpreted. This is a crucial development, but we need to know why.
Above all, this vote signifies the rise of Muslims as a self-conscious, engaged, and assertive community with pronounced political views. To be sure, this does not mean all Muslims are for Sanders. There are plenty of rich and powerful Muslims of all sorts, no doubt, rooting for Hillary Clinton or even voting Republican. The very idea of a “Muslim vote” is as flawed and misleading as that of “the Jewish vote”, or “Christian vote”.
The making of a Muslim community
Many Muslims would have sided with and voted for Bernie Sanders even if he were not Jewish. That he is a proud and progressive Jew from a poor immigrant background links him to the deepest layers of Jewish prophetic voices throughout the ages as well as to the Jewish intellectuals and activists vastly involved with the Civil Rights Movement in the US as he, in fact, exemplifies a particularly proud moment for Jewish Americans that Muslims must learn and update.
The formation of this crucial political consciousness signals a historic formation that could and should bring Muslims into the forefront of a national awakening in active alliance with such crucial segments of US society as the budding Jewish liberation theology of a post-Zionist era, the Occupy Wall Street uprising, the Black Lives Matter movement, and even the nascent Democracy Spring rallies.
Sanders is a significant catalyst in this historic moment, bringing significant layers of political consciousness in the US to the forefront of the US presidential election. His supporters are putting up a heroic effort to promote their preferred presidential candidate. These forces, however, must begin to think of the day after a dreadful Clinton nomination, and what would happen to the significant momentum that Sanders’ campaign has generated.
In the formation of that momentum, I believe, Muslims have a significant role to play, not just as Muslims, but more importantly as a momentous gathering integral to progressive fronts joining ranks with equally committed segments of society determined to change the landscape of US politics with wide-ranging global consequences.
Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.