We need to study Donald Trump with the same precision that European and American Orientalists have studied their Orient.
In a Republican National Convention nomination acceptance speech widely maligned as dystopian, Donald Trump received rare mainstream media praise for asserting: “Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted LGBT community. No good. And we’re going to stop it. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”
While heralded as a “watershed moment” for the Republican Party, many failed to take note of what was not said in Trump’s speech. For instance, there was no call for the RNC to revise or reconsider its party platform, described by the Log Cabin Republicans as being “the most anti-LGBT” in the party’s history.
In order to realise his convention pledge, Trump would later propose that the United States resort to the “extreme vetting” of aspiring immigrants to prevent anyone harbouring “bigotry or hatred” towards gender or sexual minorities from entering the US.
However, there was absolutely no mention of restricting American citizens from going to other countries with the explicit purpose of spreading ideologies which could be construed as homophobic or misogynistic.
That is, in both cases Trump declined to challenge his supporters on their own attitudes or behaviours – instead, the “gay issue” was raised primarily as a means of attacking foreigners and, especially, Muslims.
Before LGBTQ issues became the humanitarian vogue, 'women's empowerment' occupied the same position - with people who were, themselves, staunchly anti-feminist calling for war against Muslims for the sake of 'liberating women'.
Before LGBT issues became the humanitarian vogue, “women’s empowerment” occupied the same position – with people who were, themselves, staunchly anti-feminist calling for war against Muslims for the sake of “liberating women“.
However, conservatives in the US should beware of jumping on this particular bandwagon – because if the Republican Party follows Trump down this path, it is they who stand to lose the most in the long run.
Most American Muslims are first-generation immigrants. However, if Trump’s “extreme vetting” policy is a backdoor attempt at banning Muslims (given the likely unconstitutionality of his original “religious test” proposal), it would be largely unsuccessful: Muslim Americans tend to be relatively more supportive of expanding rights and protections for LGBTQ citizens than many other religious populations in the US – to include Evangelicals, Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Meaning, even if many personally oppose homosexuality, they nonetheless vote for policymakers who strongly advocate for the LGTB agenda – to include America’s only two Muslim Congressmen, Democrats Keith Ellison and Andre Carson.
Three important implications follow:
First, the current immigration system already seems to strongly attract or filter those Muslims who are respectful of gender and sexual minorities. Consider: despite being primarily first-generation immigrants from nations where LGBT tolerance is among the lowest in the world, Muslim American sentiment today is roughly comparable with the general US consensus circa 2006.
Second, Trump’s ideological test would probably prevent many aspiring Christian (or even Orthodox Jewish) candidates from immigrating to the US – particularly those from Africa or the Middle East, who tend to hold more traditional views on gender and sexuality than their Western or Latin-American counterparts.
On Trump’s plan, however, Christians who face discrimination and persecution for their faith could also find themselves turned away from America on the same basis (Middle Eastern and North African Christians would face a similar problem with Trump’s other backdoor attempt at banning Muslims: turning away people from “terror-affected” countries).
Third, given that most hate crimes, discrimination, and socio-political hostility LGBT Americans face originates from native-born, Republican-voting Protestants (rather than immigrants or Muslims), if conservatives establish a legal precedent defining opposition to feminism or the LGBT movement as fundamentally anti-American, liberal advocacy groups will push to expand its scope, applications and enforcement to target them as well.
For instance, opposition to the feminist or LGBT agenda could be cited as grounds for stripping federal student loan aid from Christian colleges, ending tax exemptions for religious institutions, strongly restricting displays of religion in public spaces, for exposing small businesses, corporations, or even Christian organisations to civil liability for controversial views or policies – or on the far end, even broadening formal designations of hate groups or domestic radicals to enable more aggressive dismantling of certain forms of dissent.
There is a growing social and political movement in the US eager to implement these sanctions – and it seems increasingly likely that they will eventually succeed. But it would nonetheless be tragic if Christian conservatives, themselves, opened the floodgates for this radical secularisation in a misguided attempt to stunt Islam in America.
Should conservative Christians sincerely aspire to more fully embrace LGBT Americans, it is wholly unnecessary – indeed, suicidal – to justify this conviction by demonising some other vulnerable religious population.
Musa al-Gharbi is a Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in Sociology at Columbia University. Readers can connect to his research and social media via his website: fiatsophia.org
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.