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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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Story Of Pakistani Immigrant Who Came To U.S. Helps Feed The Homeless

“I have a deep interest in social justice, Catholic social teaching … and so to be part of something bigger than myself, my son and I chose to come to lunch here today to support and be a small part of a great thing."

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Sakina Halal Grill serves a hot luncheon buffet to paying as well as non-paying guests. (J.Taboh) VOA

When Pakistani immigrant Kazi Mannan came to the U.S. in 1996 as an impoverished young adult, he could only dream about success. He worked long hours in a series of tough jobs, saved money and learned everything he could about working and living in America.

His hard work paid off. After more than 20 years, he’s now a successful entrepreneur and owner of a popular Pakistani-Indian restaurant just a few blocks from the White House.

But what’s most remarkable about his story is what he’s doing in his restaurant every day.

Kazi Mannan speaks with two of his regular homeless guests at his restaurant, which welcomes paying and non-paying customers. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Kazi Mannan speaks with two of his regular homeless guests at his restaurant, which welcomes paying and non-paying customers. (J. Taboh) . VOA

Mannan offers free meals to the homeless and anyone else in need.

Paying it forward

He says it’s his way of heeding the principles of his Muslim faith.

“I know God is happy with me, what I do, because I do it with my pure heart, with my pure intention, to uplift others without seeking any reward, any recognition,” he says. “I don’t need any awards, I don’t need any money. I just want to please Him.”

Mannan helps the needy he says, because growing up poor in Pakistan, he knows what it’s like to be hungry.

“I have nine siblings and [we didn’t have] much to eat … when you are poor and you [don’t] have things that other people have, when you get it, you want to appreciate, you want to share with others,” he said.

His desire to share deepened as he worked as a limousine driver in the nation’s capital. He saw homeless people on the street, day and night, in all kinds of weather — looking for food in trash cans.

The experience had an impact.

“I don’t want to see another human being going through the poverty that I went through. I don’t want to see another human being going through the hunger that I went through. I want them to have that feeling that they were being accepted, so they can come and sit here and eat with respect,” he says.

Just like family

His message is simple. Come to Sakina Halal Grill, which is named after his late mother, ask for food, use the restroom, and sit for as long as you want.

“We will love you and respect you the same way we respect a paying guest. We will treat you like family,” he said.

Members of the homeless community are welcome at Sakina Halal Grill restaurant anytime for a free meal. (J. Taboh/VOA)
Members of the homeless community are welcome at Sakina Halal Grill restaurant anytime for a free meal. (J. Taboh). VOA

Marchellor Lesueur, who is homeless, has been coming to the restaurant every day for the past eight months.

“I think that he’s a saint. He’s a beautiful man,” he says about Mannan. “My stomach was growling, I was looking for a blessing, then he popped up, gave me a card and invited me to a restaurant for lunch. And I was so overwhelmed and happy I couldn’t wait to get here, and ever since then I’ve been coming.”

Hegehiah Griakley is also a regular. He was finishing up a generous portion of rice and chicken, which he described as two meals in one.

“This is more than lunch,” he said. “They give you enough to feed you for the rest of the day I think. The food is great, the people are nice. I wouldn’t mind working here!”

Griakley says he once asked Mannan what he could give him in return for the free food. “Because most people expect you to give back.”

“But he said ‘no, no, no, no, no!’ He just wanted me to have a good meal,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe that. It was so nice. I loved it.”

Compassionate immigrant

Mannan estimates that he’s provided more than 80,000 free meals since the restaurant opened in 2013.

And when he’s not feeding the needy in his restaurant, Mannan delivers meals to local shelters and churches, and organizes food and clothing drives at nearby parks.

Kazi Mannan distributes food to the needy at a local food and coat drive -- one of many he organizes every year. (K.Mannan)
Kazi Mannan distributes food to the needy at a local food and coat drive — one of many he organizes every year. (K.Mannan). VOA

“Some people tell me ‘homeless people are using drugs and you’re feeding them; that’s bad.’” To which he responds, “For you, it’s bad, for me, it’s joy. … I see a person who’s fallen to the ground. Whatever problem they went through to become homeless, it’s not my job to judge — my job is to give them respect and love.”

His paying customers are still his main business. Many of them contribute towards the free meals… and support his cause.

First time customer Geralyn Nathe-Evans was visiting from Minnesota when she read about Mannan’s mission in an article.

“I have a deep interest in social justice, Catholic social teaching … and so to be part of something bigger than myself, my son and I chose to come to lunch here today to support and be a small part of a great thing,” she said.

Mannan uses food as a way to help his fellow man, in practice of his faith. He urges others to do the same with their talents.

“If you’re a medical doctor, can you love him through your practice? If you are a lawyer, can you love him through your practice? Be kind and be compassionate to your client?” he asks.

In doing so, he believes “we will all prosper and flourish” as a society.

Also Read: Apple Watch Can Detect And Notify Users Irregular Heart Rhythms

Meantime, he says he will continue to nourish both body and soul of all who walk through the door of his restaurant.

“Just uplifting others is a joy for me. It doesn’t matter [what] color, religion you belong to. We are all human. I am focusing on humanity. I’m bringing humanity together and this is my mission.” (VOA)