Trump supporters meet representatives of Michigan’s Arab and Muslim communities

Trump supporters meet representatives of Michigan’s Arab and Muslim communities
Trump supporters meet representatives of Michigan’s Arab and Muslim communities

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Trump supporters meet representatives of Michigan’s Arab and Muslim communities

CHICAGO: Arab and Muslim supporters of the former US president, Donald Trump, held a meeting in Michigan on Tuesday night to discuss with community leaders his actions while he was in the White House, and attempt to win their support for his bid to regain the presidency. 

It comes after the #AbandonBiden movement claimed a significant degree of success in their efforts during the primary elections process to persuade Muslim voters to protest against President Joe Biden’s actions in support of Israel during the war in Gaza by refusing to endorse him as the Democratic candidate for president. 

Biden comfortably won his party’s nomination in the primaries. However, on his way to victory over Trump in the 2020 presidential election, he won several key swing states by slender margins, and if the Muslim voters who rejected him in the primaries in those states were also to abandon him at the election in November, they might have a significant effect on the outcome. 

Michigan was one of those swing states in 2020; Biden won it by only 154,188 votes out of more than 5.5 million cast — a 2.8 percent margin of victory. 

Since the war in Gaza began, Biden has provided Israel with more than $40 billion in military-funding support and provided political cover for the actions of Israeli authorities during the conflict, which has claimed more than 35,000 lives. Because of this, some Arab American and Muslim American leaders and progressive Democrats have urged the community to protest against his reelection. 

Bishara Bahbah, the national chairperson of Arab Americans for Trump, an independent organization that is separate from the official Trump campaign, told Arab News on Wednesday that he and other supporters of the former president met about 40 “leaders” of the Arab and Muslim community in Michigan on Tuesday to “straighten out the many misconceptions about what Trump has done and seeks to do” in the Middle East. 

“The meeting went very well. A number of the issues were cleared up. There was no ‘Muslim ban’ — the Democrats spun it,” he said, referring to Trump’s controversial policy while president of blocking citizens of certain, predominantly Muslim, countries from entering the US. 

“It was a question of proper vetting (of those) coming either as visitors or as immigrants to the United States,” said Bahbah. “The impact was only on a few countries that were in turmoil, and the people who were qualified to be allowed in were let in. 

“Many Muslims entered the US during that alleged ‘ban.’ All Trump did was implement the laws of entering the country for everyone.” 

He added that the policy had affected only six of 50 predominantly Muslim countries and accused the Democrats and the media of distorting the issue into “something it was not.” 

Bahbah also said the Trump administration’s recognition in 2017 of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and its decision to move the US embassy to the city on 2018, were also misrepresented by the Democrats. 

“Yes Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but he did not specify that he would not recognize the Eastern portion of Jerusalem as a capital for Palestine,” said Bahbah. He added that many Arabs, including some of his relatives, worked at the embassy. 

“If that was wrong, why didn’t Biden reverse that? Biden had the opportunity to reverse it but he did not.” 

He accused Biden of being “absolutely deceptive” and added: “The US president should answer to the people of the United States. Under a Trump leadership, there would be an end to the wars in the Middle East, including the war between Israel and Hamas. 

“Once Hamas is out of the picture and once new leadership is elected in both Israel and in the Palestinian authority, there will openly be talk about developing the Palestinian areas. The ultimate solution would be satisfactory to Israelis and Palestinians, and we all know what that means.” 

Bahbah said: “The only person (Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin) Netanyahu fears is President Trump. Netanyahu played political football with Biden but Trump would be forthright.” 

Asked about a survey by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the results of which were published last week and suggested both Biden and Trump were performing poorly among Arab Americans, with support in single digits, he said: “I respect ADC but I think there is a difference between a survey and a poll. It may reflect the views of ADC members but not the Arab and Muslim community. 

“Trump has been misunderstood. Trump will muscle peace and he will bring about prosperity to the region and lead to a satisfactory resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.” 

Oubai Shahbander, a Trump supporter who helped organize Tuesday’s meeting, which took place at a restaurant in Troy, a suburb of Detroit near Dearborn, said Arab and Muslim community leaders were invited to attend and hear “directly from Trump supporters” why they should back the former president’s election bid. 

One of the speakers was Trump’s former director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell. 

“What’s very clear is that Arab Americans in Michigan are not supporting Joe Biden and they never will,” Grenell told Arab News after the meeting. 

“They know his disastrous leadership led to multiple wars and massive death. What’s also true is that the support for Donald Trump has never been higher with Arab Americans, because peace and peace accords and sanctioning Iran are very popular.” 

There was pushback against Grenell from some of the attendees, who criticized Trump for surrendering Jerusalem to Israeli government control, and for promoting peace accords with Arab countries without firmly securing Israeli support for a two-state solution. 

Grenell acknowledged those issues but said Trump can still provide Arabs and Muslims with greater respect and honesty than Biden. He added that Trump continues to support a two-state solution, an option publicly rejected by Netanyahu after becoming Israeli Prime Minister. 

Critics also highlighted comments by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, at the start of the war in Gaza in which he suggested the beachfront of the territory could be developed by authorities in Israel as a tourist attraction or an upmarket residential area for Israelis. 

Others at the meeting said their party and Trump can deliver peace for the Palestinians, and would deliver on their promises and respect the community, unlike Biden, who they said has repeatedly broken his promises to Arabs and Muslims in the US. 

“The feedback from the community has been incredibly positive,” Massad Boulous, whose son, Michael, is married to Trump’s daughter, Tiffany, told Arab News on Wednesday. 

“We spoke to a diverse set of members of the Arab American community on Tuesday night and the level of support for President Trump’s policy is clearly growing. We made it clear that Arab American support is absolutely crucial in this election and that our interests in the community, and for our families, are best served with Donald Trump back in the White House. 

“I spoke about my personal experience as an Arab immigrant to this great country and the importance of preserving this great country for our children and grandchildren — it’s a message that resonates with Arab Americans in Michigan. Arab Americans just can’t afford another four years of a president that doesn’t care about them or share their values and interests.” 

Bahbah and Shahbander said further meetings between Trump supporters and Arab and Muslim community leaders would be organized “to clarify distortions” from Biden and the mainstream news media, which they accused of favoring Biden over Trump. 

The meeting came less than a week after several Arab American leaders met Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, to push for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 

Leaders of the #AbandonBiden movement have said they hope to organize a “national gathering” in the Fall at which Arab, Muslim and other voters can consider alternative presidential candidates.

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