When moderator Chris Wallace asked President Trump about a New York Times article that said he paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, Trump responded: “I’ve paid millions of dollars, and you’ll get to see it.”
Biden responded, “When? Inshallah?”
The Arabic word is so unfamiliar to most Americans that many people commented online that they initially believed he was saying “When? In July?” and that his pronunciation was off, prone as he is to moments of mental fuzziness.
However, his campaign has since confirmed to NPR that he used the word, which means “Allah willing” or “if Allah wills it.” He has also said it at least once before, when he invoked the term during an event in February. It is often used in a sarcastic way by Muslims to express their skepticism that someone will do something they say they will.
If he was trying to express his doubt that Trump would follow through on disclosing his tax documents, his point was lost on most people considering English is the language of choice in the U.S.
And although it’s pretty clear this was just a desperate attempt to try to win favor among Muslim voters, his comment may have had the opposite effect. It certainly sounded out of place coming from the mouth of a 77-year-old Catholic white man, and some have said it was insulting pandering or even downright disrespectful.
A New York Times op-ed writer who wrote a piece about the term for the paper in 2016, Wajahat Ali, tweeted about Biden’s use of it during the debate: "Saying inshallah doesn't make you Muslim.”
Political activist Meriam Masmoudi likened it to tossing table scraps to the Muslim community in America at a time when Islamophobic violence is on the rise. She wrote: "It's so disheartening that the best thing the Biden campaign seems to be able to offer Muslim Americans in the midst of an uptick in islamophobic violence is an offhand, completely inappropriately applied 'inshallah' in the debate."
Montclair State University Linguistics Professor Fadi Helani said that the phrase was a bit too sophisticated for a person who does not speak Arabic to use in a presidential debate.
A former Middle East correspondent for the Washington Post, Tamar El-Ghobashy, tweeted: "Biden’s use of inshallah was kinda colonial and derogatory if you ask me.”
Some have wondered whether the term was fed to him, along with other things he said, through a hidden earpiece; it’s also possible that he picked it up after spending eight years around Barack Obama.
The American Muslim population only accounts for around 1 percent of the U.S. electorate, but they make up large populations in swing states such as Michigan, Florida and Ohio.
Last week, the Biden campaign made headlines when a staffer suggested that Muslims, Jews and Catholics should be disqualified from the Supreme Court on account of their “intolerant” views on topics such as homosexuality. Deputy Data Director Nikitha Rai said: “I’d heavily prefer views like that not be elevated to SCOTUS, but unfortunately, our current culture is still relatively intolerant. It will be a while before those types of beliefs are so taboo that they’re disqualifiers.”
Once again, Biden has shown the world just how out of touch he really is. By now, he may not even have any recollection of using the term, but the logical conclusion here is that he was desperately trying to sound hip and appeal to Muslim voters, but all he really did was insult them by implying that throwing around one of their terms would be enough to gain their loyalty.
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