Hey, remember that time Donald Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.?"
To read most news reports, Trump is the King of Islamophobia. So it's obvious that no serious, clear-thinking follower of Islam would deign to support Trump for president. Right?
Well, actually ...
There are some interesting stories in the mainstream press this week that quote Muslim supporters of Trump. Reuters, for example, has a story on a campaign to register a million Muslim voters against Trump. But near the end of that piece, the wire service quotes the Muslim who offered a brief benediction Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention:
U.S. Muslim backers of Trump said they were trying to build their own coalitions in swing states.
Baltimore businessman Sajid Tarar said he launched American Muslims for Trump because he favored Trump's stance on combating radical Islam.
"ISIS (an acronym for the Islamic State), al Qaeda, Taliban, they have killed more Muslims than anything else, and that's a message Muslims need to hear and understand," he said, referring to various militant groups.
Beyond that single quote, Reuters' bareboned report — typical of wire service stories — doesn't offer any real insight or depth on Tarar's support of Trump.
The Washington Post, on the other hand, has a full story on "the Muslim guy who took the convention stage and prayed for Trump":
Sajid Tarar was the last person to take the stage at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, after Tiffany Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and others had come and gone, and after most convention watchers had started flooding toward the exits.
“Let’s pray to get our country back,” he said in his brief benediction, which the cable news channels mostly talked over. He invoked the prophet Muhammad, and said “the values reflected by our leader must reflect the values of our forefathers.” There were some cheers, and some boos too.
“God bless America, God bless you, God bless Donald Trump,” he said.
Tarar is a Muslim, and he’s a Muslim for Trump. He might seem an unusual choice for a convention speaker, even after prime time, for a presidential candidate who has called for a ban on Muslims.
But Tarar considers himself “part of the angry Americans against the traditional politicians, and non-functioning, non-working Washington D.C.” Trump, he said, is "a doer.” He’ll go strong against extremists such as the Islamic State, where Obama has been weak, he said.
“And he’s an outsider. He says whatever he feels like. He doesn’t have some staffer writing his speeches. He says whatever he feels like.”
The Post story is no puff piece on Tarar. In fact, it's downright antagonistic, digging into his background and citing public records to question everything from his reported age to his apparent failure to pay bills. Before offering those details, the newspaper quips that "Tarar doesn’t actually believe that Trump said all those bad things about Muslims."
Is the Post piece meant as a fair, balanced news article? Maybe. But it sure has a lot of attitude for a news story, even as it notes Tarar's disdain for the "liberal media." I found myself wondering if a more evenhanded delivery of the facts might have boosted the report's credibility and given media haters less reason to brush it off.
Alas, this story turns into more of a referendum on Tarar than an exploration of Muslim support for Trump.
Fortunately, if you'd like a nuanced, enlightening treatment of that subject matter, Chicago Tribune religion writer Manya Brachear Pashman has an excellent story that quotes a variety of Muslims supporting Trump:
Just one of the nicely done chunks of the Tribune story:
Since announcing his run for the presidency, Trump has proposed that the government register and track Muslims in the U.S., bar some foreign Muslims from entering the country, monitor mosques and kill the loved ones of terrorists.
Some Muslim supporters insist his comments have been taken out of context. Others believe he has sparked a necessary national conversation about radical Islam. And then there are those who think alienating the Muslim community was a misguided move, but that his straight talk about immigration, health care and the economy outweighs his blunders.
Saba Ahmed, president and founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, chalks up Trump's offensive rhetoric as nothing more than political bluster with no basis in reality.
"I know it's illegal and unconstitutional and it will never be enacted, so I tend to ignore it," said Ahmed, who is at the Cleveland convention, adding that Trump's business background and stance on the economy is more worthy of her attention.
Some news stories are so predictable as to be nauseating, such as those Muslim backlash headlines that inevitably follow a terror attack by a follower of radical Islam.
Much more interesting, to me at least, are stories that surprise me — and help me grasp something that doesn't make sense on the surface. Such as, why in the world would a Muslim support Donald Trump?
Read on and find out. Nice job, Tribune.