A Joe Biden administration in the US would present an opportunity for Turkey to improve its strategic posturing in the region, experts said Wednesday at a virtual conference.

“Donald Trump in his second term would have gone full throttle in supporting the KSA-UAE-Israel alliance,” said Mujeeb Rahman Khan at the international conference hosted by the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University.

“[Even] he would have targeted Turkey for supporting democratic movements and Muslim causes, from East Turkistan to Kashmir,” Khan said.

Khan added, however, that under a Biden administration, “there is an opportunity now to improve Turkey’s relationship for the pivotal role it plays in the region.”

Khan was speaking at the CIGA-hosted conference titled ‘Biden, the Future of American Muslims, and US Policy towards the Muslim World.’

Despite being a NATO ally, he argued, Ankara’s role “was undermined in Syria and Libya,” where the “US under Trump preferred Russia.”

“There is a chance of suspension of full-on embracement of Israel, KSA, UAE, the counter-revolutionary alliance [under Biden],” he said, acknowledging that Biden has made “obnoxious comments about Turkey in the recent past and the then US administration was not sad” over the Fetullah Gulen-backed failed military coup in Turkey on July 15-16 in 2016.

“The [US] attempt to use Russia against Turkey will be mitigated [under Biden],” said Khan, adding Azerbaijan’s victory against Armenia was a defeat for Russia.

Khan also observed that Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia need to “re-energize this new emerging bloc” which seeks to strengthen accountable and democratic governments against dictatorships.

‘US Muslims need to focus on domestic issues’

Muslims in the US need to focus on domestic issues without getting hinged to power corridors but strengthen the community from inside, other speakers observed during the conference.

New York-based Palestinian activist Raja Abdulhaq said the US “War on Terror” was significant as it was used to justify Islamophobia and other wars America launched in Iraq and other countries.

“The clash of civilizations under Democrats emerged as a liberal Islamophobia [phenomenon],” he observed, he observed referring to the so-called dichotomy that labels the American-Muslim community as “good Muslim v/s bad Muslim” according to Western perceptions.

Abdulhaq said the US Muslim community needs to see what their priorities are after Trump has left the White House. “What kind of structural changes are we expecting to see under Biden?”

He also reminded the audience that it was the administration of Barak Obama and Joe Biden that allegedly engineered the coup in Egypt which resulted in the rise of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi as a military dictator.

“The only difference is that Trump was more vocal in his support of dictators,” he said.

“The Muslim community needs to be more alert and shrewder now as how to engage the US electoral politics,” he said.

“American Muslims should be involved in their domestic issues rather than getting involved in Middle East issues…Let Muslims and non-Muslims in the Middle East decide and dictate for themselves.”

Accountability, transparency important

Samia Assed, another human rights activist, said US Muslims need to create institutions and organizations and “work much harder” in the community.

“A movement on the ground in the Muslim community is very important and making sure there is accountability and transparency,” she said, emphasizing engagement locally in the community.

She called for the accountability of those who “claim to represent the US Muslim community.”

“If they don’t represent us, they need to step aside, and we will create our own platforms…Any representation that is informed by the community, must be held accountable…it is there where you will find leadership.”

El-hajj Muari Salaakhan from the Coalition of Civil Freedoms said the US elections have shown that the country desperately needs a “reset — socially, economically, culturally and politically.”

“Muslims have got to stop this habit of engaging in a political process the way our non-Muslim neighbors do, because that is a failing paradigm – [because of] giving money to politicians, playing politics, [which is] tribal, secularistic and sectarianist,” he said.

“This will never provide us with the formula we need to discharge our sacred responsibility…We need to engage in a unified fashion as much as possible, conscience of accountability at individual and community levels.”

He said, however, that the American Jewish people demonstrate the ability to transcend minor differences in order to pursue large community goals, which “is a lesson for the US Muslim community.”

Academic Hafsa Kanjwal brought back memories of increased aerial bombing and drone attacks under previous US administrations, especially when Obama ruled when Biden served his vice president.

“The Obama period led to an acceleration of complicity by [US] Muslims,” she said, arguing that the first Black American president threw a “smokescreen over the Muslim community.”

“He enabled the rise of a Muslim class that gave him cover…He held annual iftar [fast breaking] at the White House but justified Israeli’s bombing of Gaza, which resulted in thousands of deaths. But that Muslim class did not even question it,” she said.

Kanjwal, a Kashmiri-American, said there was a need to put a check on American exceptionalism.

She said the US Muslim community had “played a negative role in US foreign policy.”

“Our lives are not more important than those of victims of American foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We must hold institutions accountable and not allow ourselves to be taken for a ride,” she added.

“What is the need of Biden saying Insha Allah [a Muslim expression meaning God willing] if his administration bombs Muslims around the world?”

The conference moderator, Obeid Ruff, concurred, saying the Trump administration was just a “continuation of most US presidents…He was only more outspoken.”

‘Stand for justice without any difference’

CIGA director Prof Sami A. Al-Arian said the US Muslim community needs to come together and “put up a united front.”

“It is not the Muslim face that we should be seeking in the Biden administration but what principles they pursue and uphold,” he said, urging the Muslim community to ask hard questions.

“If they [administration] respect you [US Muslims], they should do so when you ask them real questions,” he said, addressing the US Muslim community referring to false cases against many of the community’s members who are languishing in US jails.

He said Trump was a “more dangerous and polarizing person because of his xenophobic tendencies, putting at risk minorities.”

Calling on American Muslims “to realize what their role is,” Al-Arian, who moved to Turkey from the US in 2015, said: “the role is to stand up for principles, to stand up to uphold their faith and identity, to stand up as to how to liberate the wretched, the downtrodden, the poor, the weak, and more importantly to stand for justice for whoever the persecuted community is.”

Emphasizing on the conversations among the Muslim community, Al-Arian said it was important to know “who represents us and what are the red lines.”

“We need to pay special attention to issues where the US is involved…If [US Muslims] have any access or any influence, then start talking to stop the war in Yemen, to bring down dictatorships in the Arab world.”

Al-Arian said the Muslim community also needs to engage with other social movements.

“We have to be with all persecuted people regardless of anything…We have to have our own channels of information rather than rely on others,” he said.

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