Asra Nomani: A liberal Muslim immigrant voted for Trump, and explains why

asraI’ve respected Asra Nomani for a long time. She’s a liberal Muslim reformer who has spoken about Islam as a toxic religion, and like her fellow activists and reformers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz, has taken heaps of leftist abuse for her efforts. We need many more like her.

She voted for Donald Trump. I think that’s a terribly bad choice, but I respect her reasons published in The Washington Post, which are a further wake-up call to understanding why not only rural minorities, but educated ones like Nomani, voted for Trump.

A lot is being said now about the “silent secret Trump supporters.”

This is my confession — and explanation: I — a 51-year-old, a Muslim, an immigrant woman “of color” — am one of those silent voters for Donald Trump. And I’m not a “bigot,” “racist,” “chauvinist” or “white supremacist,” as Trump voters are being called, nor part of some “whitelash.”

In the winter of 2008, as a lifelong liberal and proud daughter of West Virginia, a state born on the correct side of history on slavery, I moved to historically conservative Virginia only because the state had helped elect Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States.

But, then, for much of this past year, I have kept my electoral preference secret: I was leaning toward Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Tuesday evening, just minutes before the polls closed at Forestville Elementary School in mostly Democratic Fairfax County, I slipped between the cardboard partitions in the polling booth, a pen balanced carefully between my fingers, to mark my ballot for president, coloring in the circle beside the names of Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence.

After Hillary Clinton called Trump to concede, making him America’s president-elect, a friend on Twitter wrote a message of apology to the world, saying there are millions of Americans who don’t share Trump’s “hatred/division/ignorance.” She ended: “Ashamed of millions that do.”

That would presumably include me — but it doesn’t, and that is where the dismissal of voter concerns about Clinton led to her defeat. I most certainly reject the trifecta of “hatred/division/ignorance.” I support the Democratic Party’s position on abortion, same-sex marriage and climate change.

But I am a single mother who can’t afford health insurance under Obamacare. The president’s mortgage-loan modification program, “HOPE NOW,” didn’t help me. Tuesday, I drove into Virginia from my hometown of Morgantown, W.Va., where I see rural America and ordinary Americans, like me, still struggling to make ends meet, after eight years of the Obama administration.

Finally, as a liberal Muslim who has experienced, first-hand, Islamic extremism in this world, I have been opposed to the decision by President Obama and the Democratic Party to tap dance around the “Islam” in Islamic State. Of course, Trump’s rhetoric has been far more than indelicate and folks can have policy differences with his recommendations, but, to me, it has been exaggerated and demonized by the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, their media channels, such as Al Jazeera, and their proxies in the West, in a convenient distraction from the issue that most worries me as a human being on this earth: extremist Islam of the kind that has spilled blood from the hallways of the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai to the dance floor of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

In mid-June, after the tragic shooting at Pulse, Trump tweeted out a message, delivered in his typical subtle style: “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”

Around then, on CNN’s “New Day,” Democratic candidate Clinton seemed to do the Obama dance, saying, “From my perspective, it matters what we do more than what we say. And it mattered we got bin Laden, not what name we called him. I have clearly said we — whether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I’m happy to say either. I think they mean the same thing.”

By mid-October, it was one Aug. 17, 2014, email from the WikiLeaks treasure trove of Clinton emails that poisoned the well for me. In it, Clinton told aide John Podesta: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL,” the politically correct name for the Islamic State, “and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”

The revelations of multimillion-dollar donations to the Clinton Foundation from Qatar and Saudi Arabia killed my support for Clinton. Yes, I want equal pay. No, I reject Trump’s “locker room” banter, the idea of a “wall” between the United States and Mexico and a plan to “ban” Muslims. But I trust the United States and don’t buy the political hyperbole — agenda-driven identity politics of its own — that demonized Trump and his supporters.

I gently tried to express my thoughts on Twitter but the “Pantsuit revolution” was like a steamroller to any nuanced discourse. If you supported Trump, you had to be a redneck.

Days before the election, a journalist from India emailed me, asking: What are your thoughts being a Muslim in “Trump’s America”?

I wrote that as a child of India, arriving in the United States at the age of 4 in the summer of 1969, I have absolutely no fears about being a Muslim in a “Trump America.” The checks and balances in America and our rich history of social justice and civil rights will never allow the fear-mongering that has been attached to candidate Trump’s rhetoric to come to fruition.

What worried me the most were my concerns about the influence of theocratic Muslim dictatorships, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in a Hillary Clinton America. These dictatorships are no shining examples of progressive society with their failure to offer fundamental human rights and pathways to citizenship to immigrants from India, refugees from Syria and the entire class of de facto slaves that live in those dictatorships.

We have to stand up with moral courage against not just hate against Muslims, but hate by Muslims, so that everyone can live with sukhun, or peace of mind, I finished in my reflections to the journalist in India.

He didn’t get the email. I didn’t resend it, afraid of the wrath I’d receive. But, then, I voted.

We’d better start listening to people like Nomani, and to each other. Stop unfriending people on Facebook whose views you can’t handle. Stop reading news from your safety bubbles that only confirm what you already believe. I always make a point to check into sites like Fox news and Salon, at least occasionally, so I can know what right-wingers and the regressive left are actually saying. If you’re on the far left, get out of your Salon-net and feed your mind. Stop smearing people like Steve Bannon as anti-Semites; they’re bad enough without the supplements of bogus charges. A degenerate Republican party made someone like Trump possible. A deafened Democratic party, and toxic agendas on the far left, helped ensure his victory.

3 thoughts on “Asra Nomani: A liberal Muslim immigrant voted for Trump, and explains why

  1. As a conservative, I wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments. I was a NeverTrumper turned reluctant Trumper. I tell folks quite honestly that I’m unhappy with the outcome of the election, though I had resigned to be unhappy with it many months ago. The saddest and perhaps scariest part of this election to me was our complete inability to discuss our views with people who disagree with us.

    The extreme labelling (“racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” “islamophobic,” etc.) completely dismantles discourse from the outset. Was it justified? I think so, to an extent. BUT, as I observed, even mild criticism of Hillary, or the vocalization of some slight understanding of Trump’s supporter’s concerns, was immediately lumped under those extreme conversation-ending labels.

    The one thing that I would add is that my personal goal is not just to get a feel for both sides, but to try and understand the *best possible arguments* given by both sides. Put another way: until you are able to elaborate your opponents’ arguments in a way that they are happy with, you don’t really understand it. FOX News is a good enough place to start, but no more representative of the best and brightest than Drudge Report (IMO). Try the National Review, Uncommon Knowledge (podcast/show). The folks at RealClearPolitics do a decent job of finding strong arguments in editorials from both sides. (FWIW, I make it a point to read the Atlantic, NYT, Vox, among others…)

  2. The one thing that I would add is that my personal goal is not just to get a feel for both sides, but to try and understand the *best possible arguments* given by both sides. Put another way: until you are able to elaborate your opponents’ arguments in a way that they are happy with, you don’t really understand it.

    Yes, good point. My examples of Fox and Salon were intended to emphasize that we should keep up with even the worst of both sides, however painful it is to listen. I do read the National Review (Buckley has been a guilty pleasure of mine) and many others of the caliber you mention.

  3. My friend Jonathan Tweet promotes a discussion tactic where you summarize the points of your opponents in good faith, receive correction, and rework your summary until they’re satisfied before you attempt to argue with them. I think this is a great idea. It takes patience, and I’m ashamed to admit I rarely do it.

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