NBC News’ “The Trail Tapes” is an election season series that focuses on “people with unorthodox relationships to the 2016 campaign.” And the latest installment of the series really lives up to that tagline. It profiles Saba Ahmed, a Muslim lawyer from Washington, D.C., who made headlines back in November when she appeared on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show wearing an American flag hijab.
“I want to see a Republican in the White House,” Ahmed, wearing a hijab, declared in an interview with NBC News. If that’s surprising, then what she added next just may shock you. “Even if it’s Donald Trump.” The unexpected remark comes spliced between video clips of Trump calling for a shutdown of foreign Muslims entering the U.S.
What in tarnation is going on here?
Ahmed is a former Democrat who turned Republican about five years ago, according to the bio on her website. She is the president and founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition and is a frequent guest on cable news shows. She says that American Muslims don’t have enough representation in the discourse happening on cable news and she’s trying to make up for that. “What I’m trying to do is speak for our community.”
She’s also trying to change the minds of American Muslims who feel that Republican candidates like Trump view them as the enemy. Watch in the video above as she confronts Muslims who say they’re going to vote for the Democratic nominee in the general election. Her chief argument is that Republicans’ “core ideals” align better with Muslim beliefs than Democrats’ ideologies do. And she points to the presidential election 16 years ago as evidence that this has always been true.
In the 2000 presidential election, she says that more Muslims voted for George W. Bush than they did for Al Gore. “Sadly, after 9/11, Bush kind of betrayed our community. And that’s what drove a lot of Muslims away from the Republican party,” she says. Now, she’s trying to bring them back to the fold.
But what about Trump? Is she serious? Ahmed acknowledges that Trump’s rhetoric has been damaging, but said “I am hopeful” he’ll change that in the run up to the general election. Ahmed said she thinks the U.S. has real national security problems, but that those problems can be solved with the help of Muslim Americans.