Correction appended, March 17, 2016
Donald Trump has called for barring Muslims from entering the United States, argued for surveillance of mosques and suggested he’d be open to creating a registry of American Muslims.
Still, the Republican front-runner has some fans among the American Muslim community, which is made up of 3.3 million people, representing roughly one percent of the U.S. population.
A recent poll of 2,000 Muslim voters in six states by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found Trump in third place, after Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with 11 percent saying they would support him.
Here’s what three Muslim Trump supporters said about their thinking.
Adam Warshauer, 37, Delray Beach, Fla.
Background: He was born to a Jewish father and Christian mother, and became a Sufi Muslim after being introduced to the faith by a man he met at 22. Politically, he says he identifies most as an Independent. Warshauer plans to support Trump, especially if he wins Tuesday’s primary elections and goes on to become the Republican nominee for president.
Why He’s Voting Trump: Warshauer says he does not believe Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the country because of a dislike for them, but because he wants to solve terrorism. ”Most are outraged at Trump saying he wants to ban Muslims from entering America, but I support that as a Muslim person, because we have to stop what is happening and work with other Muslim countries to stop terrorism. If you stop Muslims from entering the country, it forces everyone to look at the problem. He adds that terrorist groups like ISIS are hurting Islam. “Who wants to become Muslim when it is associated with terrorism?” He adds that Trump is more approachable than other Republican candidates such as Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
“An example of Trump being a problem solver is his proposal for building the wall along the Mexico border—that’s a solution to illegal immigration. I also connect with him because of how much he cares about the heroin issue—he says it’s a problem and he wants to fix it. But I am worried about his approach to foreign policy, since he is a bit aggressive. Then again, Putin respects him and that’s good; we want Putin to respect our country.”
“Trump says a lot of dumb things, and I’d like to help him. I’m not necessarily a ‘Trump Trump Trump!’ fist pumper, but I am being a realist, and if he is going to win, I want to support him to make the best decisions for our country. I feel that supporting him as a candidate is the best way to reach him and for me to get involved and effect positive change.”
Omar Alkadri, 52, Boca Raton, Fla.
Background: Alkadri gained citizenship after he immigrated to the U.S. from Syria in 1990. He operates a check-cashing business and says he was a four-time Democratic presidential voter—twice for Bill Clinton and twice for President Obama.
Why He’s Voting Trump: Alkadri is interested in voting for Trump in Florida’s primary election. He says the deficit has increased under President Obama, and that instability in the U.S. economy and joblessness affect the well-being on business owners like himself. “Obama’s strategy was hope, but hope doesn’t do anything on its own. It is just a word that makes people dream.”
He says that Trump’s anti-Islamic language bothered him at the beginning, but “it isn’t something that has to be made into a big issue.”
To fix this country, Trump does need to step back a bit from extreme language, Alkadri says, adding he does not believe Trump means the inflammatory things he says, and that he is simply pandering for votes: “American fanatics like to hear him talk in extremes; he’s a hero to them. But it’s just a little bit of entertainment and fascination.”
“I hope Trump gets all communities together, Muslim, Jewish and Hispanic. We need all of the country coming together. He doesn’t mean it when he says he wants to build a wall along Mexico. You cannot build a wall for hundreds of miles—it just costs too much money,” he adds.
Alkadri says he also liked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush but felt he was unable to get his message across to voters. On Cruz: “Cruz doesn’t have the heart to bring people together, but you look at Trump and he fills large spaces with people.”
Raed Hamdan, 41, in Boca Raton, Fla.
Background: Hamdan owns a few Metro PCS stores in Florida. His parents immigrated to the U.S. from Palestine.
Why He’s Voting Trump: Hamdan says he is most interested in voting for Trump in Florida’s primary election in part because he is the only candidate to say he prioritizes making peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Hamdan says he is not behind Trump 100% because of things he says about Muslims, but that a candidate’s ability to self-finance and “not looking to others for handouts” is most important.
“Is he reckless with what he says? Yes. Is there a lot of cleaning up to do in the country? Yes. Being a billionaire, I can’t see anyone buying him—paying him off to push him in one direction or another. This guy is reckless but at least you know what’s on his mind.”
He says he does not support Trump’s anti-immigrant commentary, but that he isn’t particularly threatened by it either. “Obama said he wanted to shut down Guantanamo, but it is still there. Whether Trump wants to build a wall along Mexico or deport Muslims or not, he can’t make it happen on his own. This has to be voted on.”
“All of us, in this country, are immigrants or have immigrant roots. Trump does too, and so do all his wives. But do immigrants hurt or help the economy? I think immigrants hurt the economy. Look at it this way: an immigrant wants to come here to better his home. So where is most of his money going—here or back home? If all of his money is going back out to another country, how is the U.S. benefiting from that?”
Hamdan says he hasn’t looked too much into the other candidates, but that he doesn’t trust Clinton, especially after revelations of her private email server. He says he has always leaned toward the Democratic party “because the Republicans always want to go to war. But Obama was a Democrat and he didn’t exactly keep us out of any wars.”
But now, Hamdan says he identifies more with the Republican Party. “Democrats are more about taking more from the people and giving back to the welfare system, dividing the wealth. Republicans distribute wealth more fairly to business owners.”
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly quoted Adam Warshauer. He said a wall along the Mexican border would be a solution to illegal immigration.
Yana Paskova is a freelance photographer based in New York.