Muslims for Trump: more than you might think
WASHINGTON - Despite having a reputation for having been particularly harsh on Islam in his campaign for Presidency, Donald Trump won’t be entirely shunned by the 3.3 million Muslims voting on November 8th.
In a poll held at the beginning of the year by The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) covering six states and 2000 Muslims, it was revealed that 7% of those surveyed still held Trump as their first choice candidate, beating all his Republican counterparts. Support was strongest in California and Florida.
This comes despite the property tycoon’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country (even, perhaps, Muslim Americans returning from time abroad) and his public spat with the parents of a deceased Muslim-American soldier.
Furthermore, he has referred to Syrian migrants as a potential ‘Trojan horse’, whilst claiming that many Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks.
The poll, of course, isn’t necessarily a fair reflection of the average American Muslim. Firstly, his recognisability and fame is what is likely to have gained him these votes rather than appeal as a candidate.
Secondly, the survey is not a formal poll, and identifies Muslim voters by matching names with a list of traditional Islamic first and last names, rather than by actual voter information.
Nevertheless, the Muslim voting bloc has a history of being a sway group, which is significant during this race in particular considering that 74% of those polled intend on voting in the upcoming election.
Muslim and Arab voters are mainly clustered in battleground states Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In Florida, Hilary Clinton leads polls by less than three points; in Ohio, by less than two.
In Michigan, the Muslim vote helped Bernie Sanders score a surprise victory against Clinton in March.
“The increase in the number of Muslim voters who say they will go to the polls in their primary elections indicates a high level of civic participation that may be driven at least in part by concern over the rise in Islamophobia nationwide,” said CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw.
During the White House race of 2000, the Bush campaign made outreach to Muslim voters priority and ended up doing well with the bloc. However, 9/11 and the ensuing wars caused the Muslim vote to swing heavily in favour of the Democrats, and this continues to be the case. Trump remained far behind Hilary Clinton (52%) and Bernie Sanders (22%) in the CAIR poll.
Sajid Tarar, 56, is a Pakistani-born real estate entrepreneur and founder of group Muslims for Trump. He sees certain conservative elements of Trump’s campaign as being attractive to the Muslim voter: “We are not here to promote same-sex marriage.”
He added that he shuns accusations the Apprentice star is an Islamophobe: “He is not anti-Muslim, he is anti-radicalism”, an opinion that may resonate with those polled, a third of whom cited Islamophobia as their primary issue of concern, ahead of the Economy (prioritised by Muslim Republicans) and Health care.
Tarar, who claims that Muslims for Trump has 5,000 supporters, cites a lack of education about the American political system as one reason why American Muslims are a relatively politically inactive group. He intends to encourage these people to learn, conceding: “This is always hard work.”
One reason why might be that like Tarar, who left Pakistan under the dictatorial rule of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, many Muslims have a history with dysfunctional democracies and low levels of citizen participation. “Muslims hardly vote. They are not active in politics.”
If the poll results indicate one thing however, it is that even high Muslim participation may not yield the landslide Clinton victory one might expect from the bloc.