The Council of American Islamic Relations released exit poll numbers on Tuesday, which showed that 13% of Muslim Americans voted for Donald Trump on Election Day.
CAIR, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the United States, polled more than 2,000 registered Muslim-American voters. The report showed an extraordinarily high turnout — with 90% of Muslim Americans voting and 74% voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump, surprisingly, received twice as many supporters as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney did in 2012.
Trump, who has appointed several anti-Muslim proponents to his cabinet, vilified Muslims throughout his campaign. He incited violence at his campaign rallies by boasting folklore of an American general killing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig's blood. He made false claims about Arabs in New Jersey cheering on 9/11. His words, according to researchers, have a correlation with a 67% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2015. So how could he actually garner votes from Muslim Americans?
CAIR government affairs director Robert McCaw said many Muslim Americans that voted for the president-elect were more concerned about the economic state of the U.S. than his anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals.
"According to the CAIR polling, American Muslims that support Trump said their primary issues of concern revolved around the economy and taxes," McCaw, who coordinated the polling, said in a phone interview. "It's easy to see why a certain percentage of the Muslim community would want to benefit from President-elect Trump's proposed tax plan and breaks for small businesses."
This was the case for Karim, who asked Mic to keep his last name anonymous. Karim is an Egyptian-American who works as a financial analyst in Washington, D.C. He said he supported Trump because of his tax plan, his foreign policy views and his disdain for foreign aid.
"His tax plan is promising and would save me around $800 a month — factoring in state taxes — and his foreign policy views would less likely get us involved in a war while ending aid to rebel groups and countries," Karim said in a phone interview.
Karim said he believes that cutting off aid to rebel groups, as in the Syrian Free Army, would decrease tensions between the U.S. and several countries in the Middle East.
Oz Sultan, a "former Trump surrogate" and a counterterrorism strategist, said that the Democratic Party failed to reach out to the Muslim-American community. He also expressed resentment toward Clinton's support for regime change in Libya.
"We had eight years of opportunity for the Democrats to do something to reach out to the American Muslim community, but instead of outreach, what we got were Countering Violence Extremism programs that spied in our communities," Sultan said. "Clinton, as secretary of state, destabilized Libya while ignoring safe zones in Syria that resulted in both the refugee crisis and the deaths of thousands of Muslim women and children."
CVE is a collection of counterterrorism programs spearheaded by the FBI, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House during Obama's administration. The main grievance among several Muslim-American advocacy groups is that it exclusively targets extremism of Muslims and paints an "inaccurate portrayal of Muslim threat."
Corey Saylor, CAIR's national legislative director, met with Muslim-American voters across the country and said that the majority of Muslim Trump supporters he met were mainly single-issue voters. Many of them told him that the Muslim registry proposal had little effect on their voting decisions.
"I had one conversation with a Muslim woman, and she said that she couldn't vote for someone that was pro-choice," Saylor said in a phone interview.
Shireen Qudosi, a Muslim woman and an outspoken supporter of Trump, said that Trump resembled a fight against "the political establishment" and the mainstream press. The president-elect continuously railed against the media throughout the campaign.
"Not only was Trump running against the entire political establishment, but he took on an even [bigger] establishment: the media," Qudosi said in an email. "Trump was the underdog who already knows he's champion. His character mirrored the generals of great wars who took the hard fight because it was the right fight. I saw myself in that."
Asra Nomani, a Muslim woman who wants to reform Islam, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that her vote for Trump was a vote against Clinton's disregard for human rights under theocratic dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
"What worried me the most were my concerns about the influence of theocratic Muslim dictatorships, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in a Hillary Clinton America," Nomani wrote. "These dictatorships are no shining examples of progressive society with their failure to offer fundamental human rights and pathways to citizenship to immigrants from India, refugees from Syria and the entire class of de facto slaves that live in those dictatorships."
Nomani then praised Trump for calling out Obama's failure to say "Islamic extremism." She is referring to Trump's tweet: "Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn't he should immediately resign in disgrace!"
While Trump may certainly seem like a strongman against Middle Eastern theocracies and "Islamic extremism, his business dealings in the area as a real estate mogul say something totally different. The president-elect's Trump Organization has a significant amount of real estate in the Middle East and rents out property to state-owned Qatar Airways.
McCaw said that there are a considerable amount of registered Muslim Republicans.
"Traditionally, around 15% of the Muslim community still votes Republican," McCaw said. "We believe there were a number of shy Muslim voters in pre-election polling that were not comfortable admitting they were voting for Trump, but after Trump's victory they were more forthcoming in their support."
Despite a significant percentage of Muslim Americans voting for Trump, Saylor said that the exit poll numbers still prove that the Republican Party lost enormous potential by dehumanizing voters with similar conservative values.
"It shows that the Republican Party consistently alienated Muslims and needs to do a lot of [reforming] in many ways [for their] conservative constituents," Saylor said.