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Muslims for Trump, though few, see past rhetoric – ‘He’s got the good heart’

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump

DETROIT, April 25, (AP): As a Donald Trump supporter, Nedal Tamer feels he’s in the minority among Muslim-Americans, comfortable with his choice yet somewhat confounded that he doesn’t have more company. Small numbers of Muslims find comfort, not concern, in Trump’s strong stance on immigrants.

They see it as proof that the Republican presidential front-runner could better contain extremists than other candidates. “People have the wrong idea, even Arabs and Muslims,” said Tamer, 40, who works in real estate and construction and lives in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, which is known for its large Arab and Muslim population. “I like the fact that he’s a little nuts. He’s got the good heart, he cares about America.”

The discomfort that many Muslims have with the outspoken billionaire businessman comes from his suggestion that Muslims be banned from entering the United States. Trump also has said the US should stop the flow of refugees from countries where the Islamic State group has a significant presence. The Associated Press spoke to a number of Muslims who back Trump, some of whom declined to be interviewed. Tamer was born in Lebanon and immigrated to the US in the late 1990s from the United Arab Emirates.

He said Trump is speaking about extremists, such as the Islamic State group and those it inspires, not all followers of the religion. “Many times, Trump has said, ‘Not all Muslims’ — he’s not talking about all Muslims,” said Tamer, a Republican. “He says there are certain people. … We’ve seen what’s happening. I don’t think anybody would agree with what ISIS is doing,” Tamer said, using an acronym for the extremist group. “He says, ‘We have to stop ISIS now, immediately.’” In heavily Arab and Muslim Dearborn, many support Democrat Bernie Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win a presidential primary, and people in those communities helped turn the tide toward him last month in the state’s primary.

Sally Howell, an associate professor at University of Michigan- Dearborn and author of several books on Arabs and Muslims in Detroit, described them as a small demographic overall but certainly a factor in Sanders’ Michigan victory over rival Hillary Clinton. It helped that he came to Dearborn to court them. “It’s not all about the Middle East (issues) — it was young people, people who care about bread-andbutter issues: the economy, health insurance, quality of schools and policing,” she said. “They were the swing vote in Michigan. Any group can claim that, but I think Arabs and Muslims considered themselves to have really made the difference.”

That’s not stopping some Muslims from organizing on behalf of Republicans and, by extension, Trump. Last fall, Saba Ahmed founded the Republican Muslim Coalition in the nation’s capital and seeks to establish a presence nationwide. “We will be supporting whoever the Republican nominee ends up being. And we are hopeful of Trump’s business background, and that he would be able to use that to turn the economy around,” she said.

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