Editor's Note: This piece was coauthored by Cortney O'Brien and Matt Vespa.
Washington, D.C. - Activist and former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani, who once taught at Georgetown, is both a liberal and a Muslim. With her background, you may be surprised to learn that she proudly voted for Donald Trump in November. She came to Georgetown Wednesday night for a conversation with Jewish Civilization Professor Jacques Berlinerblau to explain why she supports the president. The event was organized by The Georgetown Review.
It became clear that one of Nomani's main reasons for voting for Trump was national security. She especially liked Trump’s executive order on immigration, although she admitted the rollout could have gone smoother.
“It’s a first step, a stumbling step, to restoring order,” she said. Trump is at least "identifying the Islamic extremism problem."
Asra Nomani and moderator Jacques Berlinerblau
As a Muslim, Nomani was not hesitant to admit the problem can and should be addressed in her own community.
“We’re still caught in a tribal culture,” she said.
Muslim groups, she explained, were offered front door access to the Obama White House, yet they argued the problem is not within Islam. These kind of groups keep them in “victimization” status, she said.
“We can’t use Islamophobia to shut down conversation.”
Nomani went into further detail about the somewhat odd situation she was in post-2016 election: she was a liberal (she makes no qualms about that), but voted for Donald Trump. She’s a Muslim in Trump’s America. For liberals, that makes no sense. I should probably rehash her op-ed in The Washington Post from last year that explains why she voted for Trump, which her to being ostracized from the liberal camp, which also tied into the latter portion of the discussion:
[A]s a liberal Muslim who has experienced, first-hand, Islamic extremism in this world, I have been opposed to the decision by President Obama and the Democratic Party to tap dance around the “Islam” in Islamic State. Of course, Trump’s rhetoric has been far more than indelicate and folks can have policy differences with his recommendations, but, to me, it has been exaggerated and demonized by the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, their media channels, such as Al Jazeera, and their proxies in the West, in a convenient distraction from the issue that most worries me as a human being on this earth: extremist Islam of the kind that has spilled blood from the hallways of the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai to the dance floor of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.This “dancing” around calling what things are, especially evil thing, is partially why other people voted for Trump. If you can’t talk honestly about a problem, you’ll never find a solution. And if you can’t identify the corrosive element that’s eating away at society, you can never engage honestly in a debate of ideas that will snuff out the regressive forces. ISIS is a radical Islamic terrorist group, as is al-Qaeda. Why was the Obama administration so hesitant to lump them in this camp?
In mid-June, after the tragic shooting at Pulse, Trump tweeted out a message, delivered in his typical subtle style: “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
Around then, on CNN’s “New Day,” Democratic candidate Clinton seemed to do the Obama dance, saying, “From my perspective, it matters what we do more than what we say. And it mattered we got bin Laden, not what name we called him. I have clearly said we — whether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I’m happy to say either. I think they mean the same thing.”
By mid-October, it was one Aug. 17, 2014, email from the WikiLeaks treasure trove of Clinton emails that poisoned the well for me. In it, Clinton told aide John Podesta: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL,” the politically correct name for the Islamic State, “and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”
During President Trump’s joint address to Congress, he said those three magic words that triggered Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who tweeted, “What was accomplished by declaring war on ‘radical Islamic terrorism’? Just alienating Muslim allies who we need, and emboldening terrorists.”
In her op-ed, Nomani noted how we should probably put quotes around the words “Muslim allies,” and that the millions of dollars the former first lady received from Qatar and Saudi Arabia for the Clinton Foundation was the deal breaker.
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. 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.Yes, we shouldn’t hate Muslims, of course—she wrote, but we also have to push back against the hate by Muslims as well; something that modern liberalism sees unwilling to do.
As a result of the hesitancy, she feels that American liberalism has failed Islam in some capacity. The deafening silence from feminists after scores of German women were sexually assaulted during New Years Eve celebrations in Cologne a year ago was astounding. What’s even more disconcerting was the city’s mayor, who spurred outrage when she advised women to keep men at arm’s length for protection. It came off as putting the responsibility of not being attacked on the victims. Would this have even been considered if white, Christian males had engaged in sexual assault en masse? Probably not, but this is the toxic nature of political correctness.
Like Bill Maher, Nomani notes how fighting for liberal values (equality, free speech, etc.) stops at the water’s edge with Islam. Why is it that liberals give the far right in Islam a pass? They seem to get a pass on sex slavery, honor killings, segregation of prayer by gender, and genital mutilation. She noted the disconnect through citing our fight against racial injustice and segregation at home, which we exported to South Africa that was fighting the apartheid regime established by white minority rule. Also, we’re against theocracy in the United States, so why aren’t we fighting the theocracies that dominate the Muslim world?
Nomani noted that Islamists have hijacked social democrats in Europe. There’s this rather unsettling alliance between Europe’s far left and Islam’s far right, which is explicitly shown when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Now, Berlinerblau wondered if all of this was more of a manifestation of a hyper-progressive element that’s dominant and vocal on college campuses, but nonexistent elsewhere.
Nomani seemed to be focused on one thing: finding the sensible middle. The far right’s antics needs to be rejected, but the far left’s agenda of identity politics needs to go as well. In the process, bring some humanity to the discussion, try and understand someone who doesn’t think like you. She might have had a bit of an edge in this regard as she grew up in West Virginia and saw how eight years of Obama didn’t do much for her local town. No wonder why Trump seemed like a breathe of fresh air, along with the notion that he wasn’t afraid to call things what they are in real life.
We may disagree with Nomani about abortion rights and global warming, but concerning shedding our discourse of political correctness, identity politics, and having open and frank discussions is something I think we all can get behind.
The students in attendance were mostly civil and asked very thoughtful questions at the conclusion of her remarks. Yet, during the Q&A session, some young minds could not fathom how she could claim the president was not sexist or racist. When she uttered the words, one male student in the audience yelled out, “Grab her by the pussy!,” in reference to Trump’s “locker room talk” in the now infamous "Access Hollywood" tapes. A female student sitting beside me kept muttering to herself, “Did she really just say he’s not racist?!”
Yes, in fact, she did. And she had already just spent an hour explaining why.
Watch the whole intriguing conversation below, via the Georgetown Review Facebook page.
A Conversation with Asra Nomani