Muslim lawmakers fear Trump, what he's tapping into

Muslim lawmakers fear Trump, what he's tapping into
© Anne Wernikoff

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE is far from alone in giving voice to extreme attitudes on Islam in the U.S., the only two Muslim members of Congress said on Tuesday.

“It’s not just Trump,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who became the first Muslim in Congress when he was elected in 2006, said during a news conference at the National Press Club.

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“This political cycle that we live in is something that somehow attracts candidates who want to divide people on actually any basis that they can in order to achieve electoral success,” he added.

Before they dropped out of the presidential race, Ellison noted, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks MORE (R-Texas) brought on a controversial foreign policy adviser who has been accused of Islamophobia and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs.”

“It so happens that anti-Muslim hate spikes with the presidential cycle,” he said.

This year has also been an especially troubling one for civil rights advocates, who warn that Trump’s proposals and comments have offended Muslims and other minority groups. Trump, for example, has proposed temporarily banning all foreign Muslims from entering the U.S. and supported monitoring of some mosques.

“I’ve read most of Mr. Trump’s books. I’ve met Mr. Trump,” added Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.). “His personal persona betrays his rhetoric, which concerns me.”

“It tells me that here’s a guy who’s a great showman, who’s a P.T. Barnum, but who will not stop at anything in order to garner attention to his favor.”

Both lawmakers said they are subjected to anti-Muslim vitriol on a near daily basis, through the mail and on Twitter.

Last month, Ellison was also singled out by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as an “apostate” worthy of death.

“We’re dealing with it on both sides,” he said on Tuesday.

“People who proclaim Islam who are haters and killers, like Daesh, and the Trumps of this world,” Ellison added, using an alternate name for the extremist group. “It’s recent, it's frequent, and we’re undaunted.”

Both lawmakers said they hope that the extreme rhetoric will prompt Muslims to get more involved in political life.

“The people who promoted this kind of hateful behavior are going to wish they had never done it, because they’re awakening a group of loyal, dedicated Americans who love their country and appreciate the democracy that we have and are going to rededicate themselves to it,” Ellison said. “In fact, they’re doing so right as we speak.”

And Carson, who has supported Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonQueer Marine veteran launches House bid after incumbent California Rep. Susan Davis announces retirement Poll: Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Florida Former immigration judge fined, temporarily banned from federal service for promoting Clinton policies MORE’s presidential bid, predicted there will be more high-profile Muslim officials in the future.

“Once she becomes president, you will see Muslims in very important positions in her cabinet,” he said.