Donald Trump is a uniter—just not in the way he had hoped. His presidency has brought American Jews and Muslims together to defeat him in 2020. It has also increased each respective community’s support for fellow minority groups. Those are the findings of a new report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), a nonpartisan organization created in 2002 that focuses on issues impacting the Muslim American community.
As ISPU found, Jews and Muslims are the two religious groups that, by far, least approve of Trump. Only 34 percent of Jews and 30 percent of Muslims say Trump is doing a good job in the White House. In contrast, 46 percent of Protestants approve of Trump and a whopping 70 percent of white evangelicals love their earthly savior Trump.
But it’s not just those numbers that jump out from this study. There’s something else that is potentially more lasting and significant: the support by each community for fellow minorities. Muslims and Jews are the two faith groups that most support Black Lives Matter, an organization Trump has smeared as a “symbol of hate.” Sixty-five percent of Muslims support building coalitions with BLM, as do 54 percent of Jews. Compare that to the 37 percent of Protestants who feel the same and the paltry 30 percent of white evangelicals who support a movement that simply seeks to value Black lives the same as white.
There are a few reasons why the large support in the Muslim community for BLM. First, nearly one-third of American Muslims are Black, meaning fighting for justice for Black Americans is also fighting for justice for a large number of Muslims. But secondly, it’s because in the time of Trump there has been an alarming spike in hate crimes against Muslims that has caused more in our community to understand that we need allies if we are going to survive. It really is that stark, as we’ve seen in Trump’s America mosques defaced with the word “Trump,” Muslim women wearing hijabs assaulted, Muslim students bullied simply for their faith, and worst of all, Trump supporters planning terrorist attacks to kill us. Hate crimes against Muslims during Trump’s presidency have reached record breaking numbers—even worse than in the aftermath of 9/11.
Similarly, the persecution of Jews during Trump’s presidency has also likely fueled Jewish support for coalition building. In the time of Trump, many of my Jewish friends and colleagues have noted they have come to realize they are not white—or at least not as white as they thought—but are in fact minorities. And not just any minority, but one targeted by bigots with violence.
Per ISPU, both Jews and Muslims in 2019 report experiencing the highest percentage of discrimination of any faith, with 60 percent of Muslims and 58 percent of Jews saying they were discriminated against. Worse, in 2019 alone, the Anti-Defamation League reported 2,107 hate crimes against Jewish people—the highest tnumber since the ADL began tallying such crimes in 1979.
That’s after a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 and the most deadly attack on Jews in U.S. history in October 2018 when a white supremacist who blamed the Jews for bringing to America “invaders that kill our people” murdered 11 Jews in their place of worship at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. While Trump was not cited as a direct motivation for the attack, as a 2019 study noted, Trump had used the words “invasion” and “killers” to describe immigrants literally hundreds of times at his rallies in the months before that terror attack.
It’s this common experience of being fellow minorities that has spurred new interfaith organizations that have also brought Jews and Muslims together, such as the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council, which I’m a member of. While similar groups that pre-date Trump like the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, an organization that brings together Muslim and Jewish women to celebrate their commonality and fight bigotry against both communities, have seen membership spikes.
Yet sadly there are still some Muslims who plan to vote for Trump in 2020—but as with Jews, they represent a small subset of our community. (Neither community is monolithic, so it’s fully expected.) A recent poll by the non-partisan Jewish Electorate Institute found that 67 percent of Jewish voters plans to back Biden, with only 30 percent on the Trump train. And a new poll released by the Council on American Islamic relations (CAIR) last week found similar numbers among Muslims, with 71 percent planning to vote for Biden and approximately 20 percent voting Trump.
To be clear, it’s not that Jews and Muslims didn’t get along before Trump—that’s a tired cliché. While at times there were tension between members of the two communities, the genesis was not theological. Rather it was political in nature, usually tied to Middle East policy. But the truth is I get along far better with progressive Jews than Trump-supporting fellow Muslims.
Trump has made many minorities, not Jews and Muslims, keenly aware that the 1963 words of Martin Luther King Jr. still resonate today: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We need each other’s support given that Trump and some of Trump’s “very fine people” have attacked us—either with words or acts of violence.
The hope, though, is that once Trump is gone, we don’t walk away from these alliances. Rather we strengthen and build on our coalitions going forward in order to prevent another person like Donald Trump from ever being elected president again.