Trump, Republicans and Islam

09 December 2015 5:17 pm

The talk lately has been around Trump calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in response to the recent attack in San Bernardino, California, which investigators believe was linked to Islamic State.

Trump's call includes Muslim tourists.

Some of Trump’s rivals got stuck into him. Jeb Bush, for example, tweeted that Trump was “unhinged.”

What impact it has on the campaign remains to be seen. But the evidence suggests Trump is talking to the Republican Party heartland.

According to a 2014 Pew survey,Republicans have a very low opinion of Muslims, rating them one point below atheists. Democrats were a bit more positive towards them but only just, ranking them slightly higher than Mormons and atheists.

Another Pew survey last year found that Republicans (71 per cent) are far more likely to judge extremism as a grave threat, compared with half of independents and a smaller share of Democrats (45 per cent)

So Trump’s position is unlikely to alienate hard core Republicans.

But as British Tunisian writer Soumaya Ghannoushi says, Republicans' discourse on Islam and the Muslim world is dangerous because it is disseminated through a wide and powerful network of media outlets and think tanks, and then consumed by a public with no direct contact or firsthand knowledge of the Muslim world.

And so in the United States, with its geographic remoteness from the Muslim hemisphere, lack of familiarity with Islam and the American tradition of religious based idealism, it has the potential of dominating mainstream public opinion of Islam and Muslims.