Can One Remain Friends with a Trump Supporter?

pyramid-trumpA large segment of the American public supports a presidential candidate who is clearly not only unsuitable but dangerously unstable. Even some Muslim Americans support him, overlooking the many deficiencies in his character and in his political argument. Among his major disqualifications not least is his disrespect for fact. Indeed, some of our Muslim as well as non-Muslim colleagues have themselves shown a disinterest in fact. This is a truly troubling trend, a challenge for us all no matter who wins the 2016 Presidential Election.

One of the names of God is Truth, and Islam should be a Reality-based religion. Though we all may be fallible and often confused, as humans we also tend to avoid questioning our prejudices, labels and beliefs. Indeed, to do so can be painful. But as Muslims we are called on to struggle with our ego and with the demands of our desires. We are called to question ourselves constructively, on the path to Truth.

Not all Islamic teachings were meant to be universal and for all time. It is useful to consider the underlying principles involved in these teachings. This critical thinking is a necessary corrective to a widespread contemporary tendency towards literalism. Literal adherence to the letter of the Law is not necessarily in compliance with the spirit of Islam.

Living in a pluralistic society, we have many opportunities to learn that good character is not simply correlated with adherence to one faith-tradition or another. There are good Muslims and bad Muslims, good Jews and bad Jews, and the same with Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, atheists etc. What is important is how each person understands his or her faith tradition, how humble and loving the human heart, and how awake the sense of conscience.

In pluralistic societies therefore, the tradition of not making friends with people of different religions is no longer appropriate or right. One should simply learn to be as aware as possible of the strengths and weaknesses of the other, and instead of reacting to this inevitable complexity with likes and dislikes, or reacting from fear or hatred, we can instead serve what can be served in the friend, for the sake of Allah, and for profound respect for His creation. Indeed, we are all also mirrors for each other.

That said, is the one who knows the same as the one who does not? Without climbing into a seat of judgement, we can ask ourselves how to distinguish between our colleagues. For example, do we treat the Trump supporter the same as others, for example? At some level Donald Trump may serve as a sort of mirror for American society but can one really remain friends with a Trump supporter?

Is there no alternative to breaking contact with seriously misguided friends, as one might sometimes do with more casual facebook “friends”?

Some scholars have interpreted the admonition not to befriend Christians and Jews as an admonition to avoid giving them power over you. If so, one might engage in a loving or friendly relationship without creating such dependence. As with a drug addict or someone with mental health issues, one must negotiate a relationship on several levels, carefully offering guidance and loving support without grasping to control the other person unless there is no other choice.

Similarly with Trump supporters, it may not be easy or advisable to disconnect from them entirely. However, the political movement to install extremely hurtful policies may continue, in the USA and elsewhere. This is a danger to our community and to many others. We are not required to pretend that everything is fine. That is denial, not wisdom.  We may hope to offer healing but the situation may actually require continued struggle.

As each of us decides what can and should be done, one can maintain a loving but wary posture.  The issue is not “associating with the enemy” at all. We can forgive– but should not forget.

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