Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslim travel to the United States is not only impractical and discriminatory, it also helps fuel the Islamic State’s message that Islam is at war with the West. Nika Nour, a first-generation Muslim-American, 24-year-old Republican activist and digital director for the Internet Association in Washington, D.C., said Trump’s message is also slandering the Republican Party.
“This isn’t the Republican Party speaking. Donald Trump doesn’t speak for us,” she said. “Donald Trump cannot make the nomination. There are much more serious social ramifications if he continues his antics. He’s going after Hispanics, Latinos, now he’s going after Muslim-Americans, and I think that Trump is seriously underestimating the power of the vote.”
Nour said she believes Trump doesn’t realize that his words are unifying people in a real way — and leading to action. “Everyone is realizing that Trump could pose a big threat to the brand because he is selling a product that does not exist,” she said. “He is defining a nation that cannot be. And I really think that you’ll see more groups that are going to be active as people start to rally.” Nour has taken to the airwaves on Sirius XM and on Twitter to express her dissent.
Nour’s parents fled political instability in Iran and arrived in the United States in 1985, where they eventually settled in Newport Beach, California and started a successful engineering firm. Nour served as deputy director of coalitions and outreach for former U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who had been the only Jewish congressional Republican before he lost reelection last year.
“After 9/11 and Iraq, my faith may have gotten a bit of a spotlight and people didn’t understand the pillars of Islam,” Nour said. “I was taught that the pillars of Islam were based on kindness, compassion. Never before had this been described to me as Islam as a source for violence and hatred.”
Nour said she is skeptical of polling data showing that many Republicans are backing Trump’s comments. She said she has helped with grassroots political volunteering and voter registration in Southern California, as well as for campaigns in North Carolina, Ohio and elsewhere.
“I’ve had really fun interactions with local Republican communities,” she said. “I explain to them my background and I’ve not been met with any discrimination… [Trump] keeps talking about the way that you make America great again. That is by restoring a mutual respect.”
In light of what some Republicans believe is a weak and incoherent foreign policy under the Obama administration, Nour said that some of the backlash Trump is channeling is understandable; voters want strength following eight years of weakness.
“I think there’s some truth,” she said. “I think strength takes many forms, it doesn’t always have to be violent, it doesn’t have to be hostile. I think that the strength that Trump is showing is going to impede the country’s ability to have diplomatic relations. I think you’ll see the country rise up and call for a different direction.”
“I think the strength will take form in grassroots,” she added. “And I am a Californian. I have communities of my own to tap into, and I have plans for getting them engaged.”
Critics charge that Trump’s anti-Muslim position heightens existing tensions between Muslim voters and the Republican Party. It’s hard to remember now, but a whopping 78 percent of American Muslims voted Republican in the 2000 presidential election. Today, according to the Pew Research Center, just 11 percent of American Muslims say they “lean toward the GOP.”
Trump’s chest banging introduces more danger to Americans and Western civilization by inflaming ISIS and its sympathizers. Trump might be a more potent ISIS recruiting tool than Jihadi John.
“The objective of terrorism is obviously to divide society, it’s to drive people one way or the other,” former British intelligence officer Richard Barrett recently told The Wall Street Journal. “So you’re either with us, that is, the Islamic State, or you’re against us. There’s no middle ground. And the Islamic State themselves talk about eliminating the gray zone, where people are in between those two camps. So they will do things to try and cause that division, But if other people are also doing things to cause that division, fine. You know, they’re very happy with that.”
Even though Muslims make up a small portion of the U.S. electorate, our heritage and our history, however sluggish progress may have been at times, rests on protecting the rights of minorities to prevent a tyranny of the majority. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Trump’s plan would essentially reverse the bend of that arc.
Pew’s data show that Muslim countries overwhelmingly take a negative view of ISIS. Most Muslims share Trump’s anger at violent jihadists. Muslims are also more likely to die in a jihadist attack than a Westerner. By alienating all Muslims instead of working to mitigate and contain extremism, Trump risks triggering further radicalization.
Nour said she hopes that Muslim Americans will become more visible and vocal in 2016, with members of the U.S. Army, firefighters and other public servants showing Trump who he is alienating.
“We need a new movement, and we need new education to prevent the past from repeating itself,” Nour said. “I can only speak for myself, and it’s time for us and my peers to get engaged and get involved and that starts with voter turnout. Primary voter turnout is really, really low, and I’m hoping we can change that.”