Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden used the Arabic word “inshallah” during a discussion on President Donald Trump’s tax returns at the first presidential debate Tuesday night.
“I’ve paid millions of dollars, and you’ll get to see it,” Trump replied.
“When?” Biden asked. “Inshallah?”
Biden’s campaign confirmed to NPR that the former vice president had used the Arabic word that means “Allah willing” or “if Allah wills it.”
Okay, for those of you wondering – did Joe Biden really drop an “inshallah” with the appropriate sarcastic usage?
Yes, he did. I confirmed with his campaign – that is indeed what the man said. https://t.co/MqseBsl2Ck
— Asma Khalid (@asmamk) September 30, 2020
The word is often used sarcastically by Muslims to express doubt that someone will do something that they claim they plan to do.
Some American Muslims and others praised Biden on social media for his inclusivity.
Joe Biden: “inshallah”
habibis, it’s happening…
— Siraj Hashmi (@SirajAHashmi) September 30, 2020
JOE BIDEN SAID “INSHALLAH”… HE ACTUALLY SAID “INSHALLAH”
HAHAHAHAHAHA ?????? pic.twitter.com/8M3PmUwrX7
— Affiya (@iamaffiya) September 30, 2020
A BuzzFeed News immigration reporter called it “a historic moment in America.”
a historic moment in America — inshallah in a presidential debate
— Hamed Aleaziz (@Haleaziz) September 30, 2020
Other people were not impressed.
One commentator even called Biden’s use of the word “colonial and derogatory.”
Biden’s use of inshallah was kinda colonial and derogatory if you ask me.
— Tamer El-Ghobashy (@TamerELG) September 30, 2020
Fadi Helani, a linguistics professor at Montclair State University, told The Washington Post that the phrase seemed too sophisticated for someone who doesn’t speak the language to use in a presidential debate.
“Inshallah” is used to expressed hope for the desired outcome in formal Arabic, including in media interviews and news conferences, according to Helani.
When it is used in informal conversation, the word can be used sarcastically “to mean that the hope or statement is too good to be true,” The Post reported.
“If somebody … talks about passing a test, and you say, ‘inshallah,’ that means you’re hoping they pass,” Helani said.
“But if somebody says that, and you know they’re a lazy student, ‘inshallah’ means you don’t believe them at all.”
Helani said that Biden’s use of the word was sarcastically “casting doubt” on Trump’s claim he would release the tax returns.
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