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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
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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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Why Does Trump Separate Families, A Policy Or A Law?

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection

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In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018.
In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018. VOA

The Trump administration at least since April has been separating children and parents who enter the United States illegally at the border — that much is supported by the numbers. But much of everything else surrounding the practice has become mired in confusion.

Here is what we know:

In recent weeks, news stories of children in detention centers have circulated more widely, and the numbers of detained children have grown.

Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters Friday that between April 19 and May 31 of this year, nearly 2,000 (1,995) children were separated from their parents or other adults with whom they were traveling.

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection shows what appears to be humane conditions at a shelter site for children, but many worry that this video, the only video that has been released from within one of the detention centers, may not accurately depict them.

A policy or a law?

As criticism over the separation of parents and children at the border grows, the Trump administration has struggled to explain the policy.

Trump, himself, said the practice is the result of a law passed by Democrats, which has forced his administration into separating parents and children.

But there is no such law.

Rather in May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” policy, which means that those detained entering the United States illegally would be criminally charged. This approach generally leads to children being separated from their parents because the law requires it.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center's annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018, VOA

On Sunday, senior policy adviser to the Trump administration Stephen Miller told The New York Times that the crackdown “was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry. Period.”

Administration officials, including Miller and Sessions, have defended the separation of families, saying that having children does not exempt anyone from the consequences of breaking the law.

“If you cross the border unlawfully, even a first offense, we’re going to prosecute you. … If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions told a gathering of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies.

The administration has said the new practice is directed at combating a “surge” of unlawful border crossings. But the “surge” appears to be numbers marking a return-to-normal after a dip last year.

Not a new idea

Though the practice of treating all people who cross the border unlawfully as subject to criminal prosecution is new under the Trump administration, it is built on existing policies from the Bush and Obama administrations.

Amid a surge of unlawful migration from Central America to the United States in 2014, the Obama administration considered many plans to deter illegal border crossings, including separating parents and children. Ultimately, Obama decided against separations but did expand the detention of immigrant families. New facilities were opened along the border, which held women and children for long periods of time before their cases were processed.

Following widespread criticism after photos of detained women and children, accompanied by testimonies of people being held for extended periods, a federal judge in Washington effectively ruled that asylum-seeking mothers could not be held for longer than 20 days, leading to what has been called a “catch and release” system where adults were released with GPS ankle monitors tracking their movements until their cases could be heard in court.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs' Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.
=U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018. VOAU.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.VOA

But this “catch and release” system has been heavily criticized by Trump and his administration.

Also read: Trump Launched A New Attack On Mueller Probe In Russia

“This get out of jail free card for families and groups who pose as families has spread,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “The word of this has spread. The smugglers and traffickers know these loopholes better than our members of Congress. I’m sad to say that from October 2017 to this February, we have seen a staggering 315 percent increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into this country. This must stop,” she said. (VOA)