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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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Russia Helped Trump To Win On Every Social Media Platform: Senate Report

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election

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Former Donald Trump presidential campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, center, who triggered the Russia investigation, leaves federal court with wife Simona Mangiante, on Sept. 7, 2018, in Washington. VOA

Russia used every major social media platform to target voters with misinformation to try to get Donald Trump elected president, according to a new report that was prepared for the U.S. Senate and seen by The Washington Post.

The report says Russians working for a group called The Internet Research Agency (IRA) began experimenting with social media to influence local elections in 2009 and expanded its operations to U.S. elections in 2013 using Twitter.

It gradually added other popular social media sites to its campaign, including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

For the 2016 presidential campaign, the report says Russians attempted to stir up conservative voters to back Trump by stressing such issues as gun rights and immigration.

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Conference workers speak in front of a demo booth at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, in San Jose, California, April 18, 2017. VOA

At the same time, the Russian operatives sent black voters messages and other information aimed at confusing them about the electoral process, including misleading information on how to vote.

Other groups, such as liberals, women, Muslims, Latinos, and veterans, were also targeted with similar messages either appealing to their politics or trying to discourage them from voting.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says according to The Washington Post.

The newspaper says the report criticizes technology companies for what it calls their “belated and uncoordinated response” when the misinformation campaign was discovered and their delay in sharing information with investigators.

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Michael Cohen walks out of federal court, Nov. 29, 2018, in New York, after pleading guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on an aborted project to build a Trump Tower in Russia. VOA

The report also warns that social media is morphing from what it says are tools for “sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement,” including in the Middle East, to threats to democracy from “canny political consultants” and “politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike.”

The Post says Facebook and Google have not commented on the report. But Twitter says it has made “significant strides since the 2016 election to harden its digital defenses.”

The United States has already leveled criminal charges against Russia’s Internet Research Agency for interfering in the 2016 campaign.

Also Read: U.S. President Not Worried About Impeachment, Defends Hush Payments

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election and whether the president has tried to obstruct justice by trying to undermine the probe.

Trump denies there was any collusion and calls the Mueller probe a “witch hunt.” (VOA)