Joe Biden’s proper use of ‘inshallah’ in debate stuns Arab Americans

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DETROIT – During the first presidential debate on Tuesday night, former Vice President Joe Biden dropped a word only known to a person who grew up with Arab parents.

Biden, during an exchange about President Trump’s taxes being released, asked Trump when he would release his taxes, and followed by asking, “inshallah?”

The term “inshallah” translates, in Arabic, to mean God willing. In theory, the term would be used to express hope. But the word has taken on an entirely new meaning for Arab households.

“Inshallah” basically means, not likely, or not happening, or -- don’t bet on it. For instance, if you were to ask your mother for ice cream, and she said “inshallah,” you’d know you probably weren’t getting ice cream.

In this context, Biden appeared to use the word to suggest Trump won’t ever release his tax returns, or at least not to expect it, realistically. He used the word in its proper context.

At first, many thought he misspoke, perhaps trying to say July. But NPR’s Asma Khalid confirmed with the Biden campaign that he did indeed say inshallah.

Arab Americans cheered the use of inshallah on Twitter:

The next debate is one week away. It’ll be a town hall format, so interruptions could be a bit more limited -- inshallah.

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About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.