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US: Muslims for Trump Have Their Say at Republican Convention

Trump has said that "Islam hates us" and has proposed that authorities monitor U.S. mosques and register Muslims in a national database

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Donald Trump speaks over Nice Attack. Image Source: Getty Images

The unlikeliest supporters of a once-unlikely candidate had their moment in the spotlight Tuesday night, July 19, as Sajid Tarar, the founder and leader of a group calling itself Muslims for Trump led a blessing at the Republican National Convention.

“Let us pray again to get our country back,” Tarar told convention delegates hours after Donald Trump officially secured the Republican presidential nomination.

Some delegates held their hands up in prayer as Tarar invoked the Prophet Muhammad  to ask God to bless Donald Trump and bring the United States a strong leader. Tarar’s group says Donald Trump is revealing harsh truths about immigration and terrorism, speaking to the Muslim community in a way no one else can.

The moment was an unusual milestone in a campaign marked by Trump’s controversial comments about the threat of terrorism and Muslim immigration.

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Trump has said that “Islam hates us” and has proposed that authorities monitor U.S. mosques and register Muslims in a national database.

“I will suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies until we fully understand how to end these threats,” Trump said after a gunman who  called himself an Islamic soldier killed dozens at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last month, in June.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjlMeeNj5dw&feature=youtu.be

Trump also criticised his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton following that shooting.

“If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words ‘radical Islam,’ she should get out of this race for the presidency,” Trump said.  Clinton maintains it is more accurate to speak of “radical Islamism,” depicting an ideological rather than a religion.

While Trump has often made controversial statements about terrorism and Muslim immigration, he has also made clear he does not believe all Muslims are terrorists. He told Fox News in an interview earlier this year, “You’ve got fabulous Muslims. I know many Muslims. They’re fabulous people. They’re smart. They’re industrious. They’re great.”

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The use of the phrase “radical Islam” is just one of the issues that attract Tarar – and others in the group Muslims for Trump – to the Republican’s candidacy.

“The safety of America is No. 1 priority for Donald Trump, and as a Muslim-American, it’s my No. 1 priority as well,” Tarar told VOA earlier this month.

Republican outreach

Tarar says the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have welcomed Muslims for Trump and is seeking ways to work with the group in the general election.

Muslims for Trump is connected to the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, an organisation that met with representatives from the RNC in early July to discuss outreach to minority voters in November.

Tarar is vague when asked about the size of the group and acknowledges that Muslims have been less welcoming of the organisation. Muslims for Trump appears not to have a dedicated website and has  been “liked” by only about 550 people on its Facebook page.

Tarar, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, has pushed back against accusations he’s a traitor and accepting money from Trump in return for his support.

“I say [to those critics] ‘Look, you are a victim yourself – you are being killed, your relatives are being killed, your kids are getting killed – and this is not what Islam is about,’ ” Tarar told VOA. He argues that perceptions of the Republican Party have not caught up to reality.

Tip the balance?

Tarar told VOA he thinks increasing numbers of Muslim-Americans will consider voting for Trump as they learn more about the details of his proposals and connect those policies to their own sense of personal safety.

But a February 2016 survey of 2000 Muslim-American voters by the Council on Islamic-American Relations shows there’s much ground to be made up.

Two-thirds of voters surveyed said they supported the Democratic party, with anywhere from 15 to 18 percent of voters voicing support for the Republican Party.  Only 11 percent of those surveyed said they support Trump.

Robert McCaw, director of government affairs at CAIR, said that makes sense since many Muslim-American Republican voters will always support their party’s nominee. But on an anecdotal level, he says he thinks support for Trump does not run deeply in the community.

“In the hundreds or thousands of Muslims I’ve met, I only met several Trump supporters or at least public supporters,” McCaw said. “There might be a few closeted Trump supporters, you never know.”

Since 2012, the number of Muslims registered to vote in the United States has doubled. While their numbers account for only a small part of the American electorate, their presence in a few pivotal states could make a difference in the November election.

McCaw says their surveys found high concentrations of mosques in Ohio, Florida and Virginia, all “swing” states that could determine the eventual winner.

“That bodes well for the community’s ability to tip the election,” he said.

Tarar says it makes sense for the Muslim-American community to vote Republican this year.

“We are fundamentally Republicans because we come from conservative countries with conservative values,” he said.

“Now that Donald Trump is trying to explain in more detail what the ban on [admission of some Muslims] means and what the exceptions are, definitely I’m hopeful that Muslims will join him.”

It’s a hope that has yet to be born out by the numbers. (VOA)

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3 Ahmadi Men Sentenced to Death in Pakistan on Charges of Blasphemy; Minority Communities are increasingly facing the Heat in the Country

“Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. Rights groups say the controversial blasphemy law has often been abused to settle personal vendettas and disputes.

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Pakistan-protest
Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries take part in a rally in support of blasphemy laws in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Hundreds of students of Islamic seminaries rallied in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, urging government to remove blasphemous content from social media and take stern action against those who posted blasphemous content on social media to hurt sentiments of Muslims. The placards, in center, in Urdu language are reading as "Authorized Institutions immediately take action on the incidents of blasphemy and remove blasphemous content on social media". (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed) (VOA)

Washington, October 15, 2017: A court in Pakistan’s Punjab province has sentenced three men of a minority religious group to death on charges of violating the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed were found guilty and convicted by the trial court Wednesday for insulting the prophet of Islam.

The men were tried under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, commonly referred to as the blasphemy law, which recommends either life imprisonment or the death penalty for anyone found guilty of deliberately insulting Islam.

The men were arrested in May 2014 in a remote village in Punjab province after residents filed a complaint with the police and accused the defendants of tearing down a religious poster.

Four men were arrested at the time. The fourth man, Khalil Ahmad, was shot dead by an angry man while in police custody just a few days after the incident.

Saleemuddin, a spokesperson for the Ahmadi community, told VOA that the charges against the defendants and the court’s verdict were unfair.

“The convicted men were trying to take down a poster, which had anti-Ahmadi slogans and text that urged the community to socially boycott the already persecuted Ahmadi community,” Saleemuddin said.

“We will challenge the trial court’s decision in high court,” he added.

Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, but Pakistan’s state does not recognize them as such and labels them heretics. There are more than a half-million Ahmadis living in Pakistan under the constant threat of persecution.

The Ahmadi community “is one of the most mistreated communities in the country. They have had been a target of blasphemous charges, sectarian violence and target killings,” said Mehdi Hasan, a prominent human rights activist in Pakistan.

ALSO READ Military Dictatorship Always Halted Progress in Pakistan, says Pakistan Prime Minister

Ahmadis ‘a threat’

The death sentence for the three individuals came just a few days after Muhammad Safdar, a prominent member of the ruling party and son-in-law of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, publicly denounced Ahmadi community members as a threat to Pakistan and urged the country’s institutions not to hire them in the military or the civil service.

Safdar’s remarks stirred a debate in the country on the issue of minorities and their rights.

Pakistan Minister of the Interior Ahsan Iqbal, without mentioning Safdar by name, denounced the anti-minority rhetoric coming from politicians.

“It is tragic to see hate speech against minorities in National Assembly. We believe in inclusive Pakistan. Pakistan respects all minorities,” Iqbal said in a tweet.

Abuse of law

“Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. We’ve seen several incidents where angry mobs killed those accused of committing blasphemy without giving them a right to face the trial,” human rights activist Hasan told VOA.

Rights groups say the controversial blasphemy law has often been abused to settle personal vendettas and disputes. Due process is often ceremonial, the rights activists add, and decisions are often informed by the growing religious intolerance in the country.

Even if courts do drop charges against defendants, mobs and local residents attack them, and law enforcement authorities look the other way in most cases, the activists charge.

blasphemy
Members of a Pakistani civil society demonstrate April 22, 2017, in Karachi, Pakistan, against the killing of Mashal Khan, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan. Police say the lynching of Khan, falsely accused of blasphemy, was organized by other students who saw him as a political rival. (VOA)

Social media posts

Nadeem James, a Christian, was sentenced to death last month in Punjab after the court established that he sent a blasphemous poem to a friend via WhatsApp, an instant message application.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a recent report said 15 people were arrested on charges of blasphemy in 2016, including 10 Muslims and five members of religious minorities.

In April 2017, Mashaal Khan, a journalism student, was accused of posting blasphemous content online and was beaten to death by fellow students at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan’s government is being criticized for strictly enforcing the blasphemy laws.

In April 2017, the government used newspapers and mobile phone services to warn its citizens not to post or upload any blasphemous materials on social media.

The government has also reportedly encouraged people to report those who violate the blasphemy law. (VOA)

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Ahmadiyya Sect of Pakistan is the Most Persecuted Minority in Line of Fire

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Pakistan Minority
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community dig graves for victims in Chenab Nagar. voa

Islamabad, Pakistan October 11: The son-in-law of Pakistan’s recently ousted prime minister lambasted a minority that human rights groups consider one of the most persecuted in the country.

Mohammed Safdar said members of the Ahmadiyya sect are a “danger to this country, this nation, its constitution and its identity.”

Speaking in the national assembly, of which he is a member, Safdar demanded that Ahmadiyyas, along with the minority Bohra community, be barred from joining the armed forces of the country because their “false religions do not include the concept of jihad in the name of God.”

Safdar is the son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif, who was forced to resign from premiership in July after a court ruled against him in a corruption case. Sharif alleged that the ruling was a conspiracy to remove him from power by the establishment, a euphemism for the country’s powerful military.

A member of Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, Safdar is married to his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who has been widely reported in the news as his potential successor.

In his statement Tuesday, Safdar also demanded that the name of the physics department of the Quaid e Azam University in Islamabad be changed. The department is named after Dr. Abdul Salam, an Ahmadiyya who is also one of Pakistan’s two Nobel laureates. The other one is Malala Yousufzai, who became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism in favor of girls’ education.

“If the name of the department is not changed, I would protest here every day,” Safdar said.

His outburst in the assembly followed days of uproar by the opposition parties over a minor amendment in the election law that was deemed to be pro-Ahmadiyya. The government declared it a clerical error and reinstated the original draft of the law.

Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan face a peculiar dilemma. They insist they are Muslims, but the country’s constitution declares them non-Muslims. Officials say Ahmadiyyas are welcome to all the rights afforded to other minorities in the country as long as they do not call themselves followers of the Islamic faith. Ahmadiyyas, on the other hand, insist that doing so would go against their religious beliefs.(voa)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.