Meet the Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus supporting Trump
- 10 March 2016
- From the section US Election 2016
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's barbs against Muslims and immigrants may have offended many, but there are a few people within the same communities now rooting for the billionaire.
Right after his victory in the Nevada caucuses, Mr Trump was quick to flaunt the support he got from some Hispanic voters. Now he can add Hindus for Trump, American Sikhs for Trump and even American Muslims for Trump to his list.
While these groups in no way reflect the thinking of the wider Hindu, Sikh or Muslim community in the US, they are nevertheless making headlines in the diaspora media.
The Hindus for Trump Facebook page, which has 500 "likes", has gone so far as to place the business tycoon on the same pedestal as some of the most revered Hindu gods.
They have come out with a poster where Mr Trump is seen sitting in a yoga posture on a lotus with the "Om" symbol—an uncanny resemblance to the Hindu Gods Brahma and Vishnu.
In Hindu beliefs, Brahma is the creator of the world and Vishnu the protector and restorer of moral order.
A post on the group's Facebook page appeals to "Trump Haters".
"Donald Trump promises to make America Great again. It means more jobs, less warmongering, protected borders, treasury surplus and a better life for LEGAL Americans. He's going to win and you are on the wrong side of History."
The Hindu American Foundation, a non-profit, says they have received several complaints about the depiction of Mr Trump as a Hindu deity.
"We have tweeted our concerns to this group but haven't heard back from them," says Jay Kansara, director of government relations at the foundation, who notes that they do not endorse any candidate.
It's estimated that there are almost 2.5 million Hindus living in the United States.
A few New Jersey-based Indian-Americans have launched a political action committee named Indian-Americans For Trump 2016.
One of the group's members, Sudhir Parikh, believes Trump is a "do-er who can negotiate both with Republicans and Democrats".
"He looks unstoppable. Part of our community does support Hillary Clinton, but we have to support the other side too, so that our interests are protected and we have access to the Washington power," says Mr Parikh, who also owns Parikh World Media, which publishes media titles including News India Times and Desi Talk in New York.
Many of those who have migrated to the US from India have traditionally supported Democrats but often it's the candidate and not the party ideology that attracts them.
George W Bush had one of the highest approval ratings amongst Indians because of his strong support for the US-India nuclear deal.
Mr Parikh says his committee does not represent Hindus, but many Hindu organisations have come forward to extend their support. So what's drawing them to Trump?
"Maybe they like what he has said about Muslims but that would be one of the reasons, not the only reason," says Mr Parikh.
Mr Trump has advocated "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on".
The comment drew worldwide criticism, but the group American Muslims for Trump says it was "highly exaggerated and used out of context".
The group's founder, Sajid Tarar, a Pakistani American, says he fully supports Trump's suggestions on finding a strong vetting mechanism for refugees coming from countries like Syria.
"I am an American myself and I believe it should be about (putting) America first," he says. "I am not in favour of anybody coming here and doing things against America."
Similar sentiments are echoed by Jesse Singh, who has founded the group American Sikhs for Trump.
Mr Singh is the chair of the Maryland Governor's Association on South Asian Affairs. He and Mr Tarar hosted a meeting with a Trump campaign representative recently in Maryland.
He came to the United States from India nearly 30 years ago.
"I don't see that America anymore," says Mr Singh. "So when Trump says make America Great again, I fully agree with him,"
He says Trump has never opposed legal migration and has businesses all over the world, including India.
"I think he understands different cultures and different countries better than any other candidate in the race," says Mr Singh.
Both Mr Singh and Mr Tarar realise the larger Sikh and Muslim communities don't agree with their views.
But they hope that if Mr Trump is the Republican nominee, they may warm up to him.