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Muslim, Woman, Immigrant — And Trump Supporter


Now for an entirely different perspective - Asra Nomani. She's a former Wall Street Journal reporter, an author and an activist. She recently wrote a piece for The Washington Post titled "I'm A Muslim, A Woman And An Immigrant, And I Voted For Trump" (ph), and she is with us now. Asra, thanks so much for joining us.

ASRA NOMANI: Oh, thank you, Michel. It's my honor to always talk to you.

MARTIN: Oh, thank you for that. So, Asra, unlike most of our guests today on the program, this is actually the first time we're talking with you about the election, so I have no way of knowing where you were before you finally kind of hit the button. But as you said yourself in your piece, you're a lifelong liberal, you're pro-choice, you support same-sex marriage, you believe in climate change, and you also said you voted at the very last minute. So what tipped the balance for Donald Trump for you?

NOMANI: Well, I have to say that, as a reformer in our Muslim community, I've challenged ideas of the right. And what really tipped the balance for me was when Election Day I went, again, on social media and looked at the commentary calling people names like racist and bigot and chauvinist, white supremacist because, you know, I'm none of the above. And I felt a connection to some of the points that Donald Trump was saying.

MARTIN: Well, you made two points in your piece. You said, first, that President Obama's domestic policies didn't help you. And you actually feel a bigger threat from Islamic extremism than you do from Donald Trump's rhetoric.

NOMANI: What I have seen over the last eight years is that these solutions have not trickled down to me as a woman, as a mother. I don't have health care. I could not afford the premiums that were given to me. I don't qualify for the subsidies. And as you also know, I'm from West Virginia. And I go back home all the time, and I see the devastation to so many families. And they are good people. Like, they are good, kind people.

MARTIN: But you say you feel it is time for a change.

NOMANI: Yeah. And on your second question, you know, on your second point about the threat of Islamic extremism, I do see it as a very serious threat. And what I have noticed over the last two terms, you know, President Obama and this liberal honor brigade that I think chooses to have this tap dance around the issue of the Islam and Islamic State. And I want a very direct, clear response that addresses the ideological problems, does not demonize all Muslims, and I believe that we can accomplish that and keep Muslims and all people more safe if we just deal with the issue head-on.

MARTIN: You talked about the fact that you - what you object to, what you call this liberal honor brigade, that you said suppresses kind of real thinking and, you know, real talk about a real, global threat, a threat which, as you say, you have experienced personally. For those who may not recall, you know, your dear friend and colleague Danny Pearl was murdered by radical Islamic extremists overseas, and in fact, was kidnapped after he was visiting you on a reporting trip. So this is very sort of real to you.

But I also do have to ask you about Donald Trump's rhetoric on this point. As you well know, as has most people remember, that he called for, as a candidate, complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S. He says that that really means something called extreme vetting. He has suggested he might call for a registry of Muslims. What do you say to people who say that his remedies, if not unconstitutional, at the very least create an atmosphere of hostility and demonizing of a religious group?

NOMANI: I agree that it is too sweeping. But I don't believe that the left and liberal's response of denial allows for pragmatic solution that's in the middle. And so the right is sent to extremes when the left refuses to acknowledge the problem, and that's what we then heard. I believe that if we actually speak up and deal honestly with the problems, we can come up with solutions that are on the middle path.

MARTIN: What do you hope for going forward?

NOMANI: I'm getting hundreds of messages, Michel, like, more than any article I have ever written in 30 years as a journalist by so many people who are coming from so many political parties and so many ideologies that say that they, too, are fed up of the extremism on the right and on the left. And I hope that if we all speak up with moral courage we can encourage, motivate, inspire this administration to hear the humanity in all people. And I hope that we can do that peacefully.

MARTIN: Asra Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and author and co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, and she was kind enough to join us from a sports tournament where she's accompanying her son. Asra, thanks so much for speaking with us.

NOMANI: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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