Gallup tracking polls from July through March found that 13% of Muslims feel favorably about Trump
Some Muslim Republicans see the GOP as a venue for preserving their values
Sajid Tarar, like many Donald Trump supporters, appreciates the unconventional Republican presidential candidate’s strong stances on security, illegal immigration and political correctness.
Tarar, a Muslim, downplays the GOP front-runner’s less-than-flattering comments about his faith as having been “twisted” and is pushing ahead with his effort to get the billionaire businessman elected. He recently founded the group American Muslims for Trump to that end.
Though adherents of Islam have found themselves under scrutiny from Trump, who has called for banning Muslim foreigners from the U.S., exploring a possible Muslim registry and monitoring mosques, there is a fervent minority of Muslims who are backing the controversial Republican front-runner, who is increasingly on track to become the party’s nominee.
“It is high time to deal head on with the issues of terrorism emanating from the Muslim world and illegal immigration, as we cannot afford to push these issues under the rug (because of) the political correctness plaguing our system,” Tarar, a 52-year-old businessman, told CNN while hosting an American Muslims for Trump event in his Baltimore home.
Concerns about terrorism
As a father of four, Tarar is concerned about the safety of his family in the wake of terror attack in San Bernardino, California. As an immigrant from Pakistan, he supports a strong vetting process for newcomers, “where people come legally and live the American dream instead of coming from the troubled areas and bringing the same things with them.”
Trump has proposed to build a wall across U.S-Mexican border, called for doing away with automatically granting citizenship to people born in U.S and deporting illegal immigrants to secure the borders. On the campaign trail, he has also bluntly called for stopping any plan to accept Syrian refugees in the light of security concerns.
And Tarar, who runs a health care and social services center, also draws hope from the real estate mogul’s business credentials.
To him, “Only a smaller government, pro-business policy and the fiscal policy of Trump can bail the country out of the current economic mess.”
Tarar is not alone among Muslims in approving of Trump.
Gallup tracking polls conducted from July through March found that 13% of Muslims have a favorable opinion of the billionaire businessman.
Robert S. McCaw, government affairs manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, identified
Trump’s name recognition among Muslim Republican voters and his leading status among GOP presidential candidates as explanations for this esteem.
“CAIR believes most of Trump’s Muslim supporters tend to vote with their wallets and are more attracted to his economic proposals, lower taxes for private business owners, sidestepping any concern they might have about his Islamophobic rhetoric,” McCaw said.
Though a majority of Muslims are Democrats – Pew in 2011 found that 70% of American Muslims identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party – a minority have long identified with the GOP because of the party’s stance on the economy and social issues.
“The current support wave (for the) Republican Party among some Muslims is partly driven by their conservative social streak that is more aligned with the party and partly due to the economic reason,” said Robert S. McCaw, government affairs manager for CAIR.
Some Muslim Republicans see the GOP as a venue for preserving their values and norms, which are more in congruence with the Republican than Democratic Party.
“Republicans are very much pro-life, anti-abortion and believe in family values, traditional marriage, unlike the Democrats who are very strong on abortion, LGBT community rights, which are non-Islamic,” said Saba Ahmed, a Trump backer and founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, an advocacy group in Washington.
Though chagrined at Trump’s remarks about Muslims, she is willing to live with Trump’s nomination as she finds it harder to reconcile with the more liberal Democratic Party.
“I feel hurt by Trump’s hatred towards Islam and Muslims. He made us feel like unwelcomed second-class citizens in our own country. Somehow he thinks our religion makes us less American,” she said. “But we must help him figure things out. Otherwise he will remain ignorant about Islam.”
Ahmed has extended an invitation to Trump and expects to host him at a mosque or at the Republican Muslim Coalition.
Many Muslims concerned
And Trump himself recently offered an olive branch of sorts to Muslim allies of the United States, making rare remarks Wednesday pointing to the ways in which the U.S. can have constructive relations with the Muslim world.
“We’re going to be working very closely with our friends in the Muslim world, which are all at risk for violent attacks,” he said in a major foreign policy address in Washington.
But many Muslim Republicans dislike Trump and are troubled by his success in the primary race.
One is Sherine Elabd, an Egyptian immigrant and lifelong Republican. She described the GOP as “a party of inclusion, whereas Trump’s stand for his way or (the) highway” is “totally inconsistent with the ideals of Ronald Reagan Party.”
She said, “This would be the first time since the 1970s that I would not vote for the Republican Party because of Trump’s unpresidential persona, if he goes on to secure the nomination.”
On reflection, however, she thought she should stick with her traditional party.
“I would vote for Hillary Clinton over my dead body,” she said.