If there’s one clear winner of the Republican presidential primary season to date, it’s radical Islam. Through lazy, uninformed language, almost every Republican presidential candidate has displayed their ignorance about the Islamic faith. Instead of providing a vision for a hopeful, positive future for Americans, the candidates have exploited recent events to play on fearful emotions.
This is not the Republican party I signed up to support. Nor is it a Republican party that can win a national election. As a 30-year-old Muslim woman from Oregon, some might be surprised to hear I think Donald Trump might actually make a pretty good president. And yet, as founder and president of the Republican Muslim Coalition, my views on economics and family values has lead me to become much more aligned with the Republican party than the Democrats. I also believe in Trump’s economic platform—he could be the key to fixing our budget crisis. I believe that my faith is part of this reasoning.
But just because I believe in conservative polices doesn’t mean I think the current group of presidential candidates is doing a good job representing those policies. I continue to believe that Republicans can be better than the deep cynicism of their Islamophobic attacks suggests. The pro-faith and family elements make the party a natural home for Muslim-Americans, as it was before 9/11, and as it can be again. But this will only happen if GOP leaders stop scapegoating Muslims on the campaign trail.
Unfortunately, so far Republican candidates have failed to do so. In the last GOP presidential debate, I was appalled at the way sacred terms were being misused at the highest levels of GOP politics. As a devout Muslim who loves Islam, this is disturbing. Ben Carson, for example, attacked Muslim going on a “jihadist mission.” In Islam, “jihad” means struggle for God—and yet we hear politicians use the term over and over to describe terrorists. I wondered what constitutes becoming “radical” in their minds. Is praying five times a day at the mosque considered “radical jihad?”
At the same time, the candidates advocated for several grossly-unconstitutional ideas and laws. Donald Trump continued to stand behind his call to ban all Muslims—including American allies—from entering the United States. Individual rights, due process, and the Bill of Rights are foundational to the United States’ Constitution, but candidates’ ongoing efforts to terrify the American people make a mockery of the very ideals they claim to protect. Government cannot deprive us of life, liberty, nor property without proper due process of law. Equal protection of the law applies to Muslim Americans, too. Apparently, in the GOP’s interpretation, God-given rights only apply to Jews and Christians.
I think conservative politicians would be interested to know that freedom of religion is guaranteed not only in the US Constitution, but in the Quran. According to our teachings, the ink of a scholar is considered to be more sacred than the blood of martyrs. And so I will continue to try to use my pen for intellectual jihad.
Many Muslims stand for the exact same principles and values as the Republican party. A varied group, plenty among us are pro-life and pro-business. We believe in preserving the traditional, heterosexual definition of marriage and protecting our borders from international threat. I believe that the first traditional marriage occurred between Adam and Eve, and Islamic marriage is a mutual contract between a man and a woman for the purpose of both procreation (children) and pleasure. At the same time, we cannot compel others to accept Islam against their will, and are commanded not to be severe and harsh-hearted against non-Muslims. The Quran calls on all of us to repel evil with good.
If radicals are going to be defeated, it will take Muslims to lead the fight against them. Terrorists are perverting the fundamental teachings of Islam—we must be careful not to do the same thing. This is why the terminology used by presidential candidates is incredibly important; we must distinguish radicals and extremists from Islam. If Christian terrorists misuse teachings of the Bible to commit crimes, we would not blame all Christians for their actions. Similarly, we should not hold all Muslims or followers of Islam accountable for the acts of criminals.
Ultimately, I believe the Islamic faith shares many of the Republican party’s values (respect for life, traditional marriage, and economic growth). We are natural constituents and advocates of conservatism. Muslim Americans want to be part of the GOP coalition, and we want to help in the fight against global terror. Rather than insult each other with inflammatory rhetoric, we must work together, as allies, in order to build a safer, stronger America. Inshallah (God-willing)!