Skip to main content

'Just because I can': The Arabs and Muslims voting for Donald Trump out of spite

Many Muslim and Arab voters who would not otherwise vote for Donald Trump can't bring themselves to vote for Biden and his unwavering support for Israel
Protestors demonstrate near Columbia University in New York City, on 2 February 2024 (Alexi J Rosenfeld/AFP)

Dania stood in the gymnasium of a public school in Dearborn, Michigan, and unclicked her pen. She was voting in a presidential primary for the first time and wanted to make it count.

She was in and out of the building in less than five minutes on Tuesday, 27 February. She didn’t have to think - in fact, she says there was absolutely nothing to think about. 

“Uncommitted,” she bubbled in. She joined approximately 100,000 other Michiganders who did the same. She says there was “no way in hell” they would vote for someone who allowed “the murder of 30,000 people and ate ice cream as he talked about a possible ceasefire”.

Michigan is home to around 300,000 people who trace their heritage to the Middle East and North Africa region, and plays a pivotal electoral role as a "swing state". It is considered essential for securing victory in the presidential election, with its outcomes often determined by slim margins.

In 2016, Donald Trump was the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988, securing the state by appealing to working-class voters and edging out Hillary Clinton by nearly 11,000 votes. By contrast, Biden secured Michigan with a margin of approximately 150,000 votes in 2020.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


While the share of uncommitted votes mirrored the 11 percent observed in Democrat Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, this translated to only about 20,000 votes.

Experts say that these votes matter, especially in a swing state like Michigan. Dania knows this, and so do her friends and other young Arab Americans like her who are angry at Biden. 

This is why she and others have decided they will be voting for Donald Trump for president of the United States in November.

“Trust me, I know Trump is no angel. But who decided Biden is the lesser of two evils?” she told Middle East Eye.

'Cross that bridge when we get to it'

Dania and her friends have had extensive discussions on the upcoming election. She explained that as Arabs in Michigan, while their voice matters, it doesn’t do much if there are only a handful of them voting for Trump.

But she’s ok with that.

“Honestly, I don’t even care if Trump wins or loses. I just don’t want Biden to win. I don’t want to bubble Biden on my ballot in November. I will vote for Trump because I can,” she said.  

“Biden hasn’t listened to us and quite frankly, it’s too late. Forgive me if I refuse to vote for a man who essentially allowed the murder of the relatives of my friends in Gaza. Did Trump do that? Not yet, but let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.”

US: Michigan's Arab and Muslim Americans mobilise to show Gaza will cost Biden presidency
Read More »

When asked if he knows Trump would be any better than Biden, Aziz Mohammad, a college student in Pennsylvania, said he doesn’t know. But he’d rather take that chance than consciously vote for a man who he says has enabled a genocide. He said that journalist Mehdi Hasan explained it best.

In a CNN interview, Hasan told Abby Phillip, “Joe Biden has the power to pick up the phone and end this war. He can ring the Israeli prime minister and say ‘We’re cutting you off’,” he said.

“He didn’t do it after 10,000 dead, 20,000 dead. Today we cross 30,000 dead. You have to ask the question, why? This is a man who is seen as the great comforter-in-chief… How on earth has he not stopped the war?”

Mohammad explained that he is tired. Every day when he wakes up, the first thing he does is scroll through his Instagram page. His feed is videos upon videos of the violence taking place in Gaza. Mothers sitting by their children’s coffins, weeping. A child walking with one arm. A dad holding his face in agony. 

“The US is the most powerful country in the world. We don’t owe anything to Israel, yet our leaders treat that place like it’s Mecca. They can stop funding to Israel in five minutes. They can stop shouting their support. Biden can do all of this but he chooses not to,” Mohammad said. 

“So I will vote for Trump not because he’s amazing - because he is not. But because 30,000 innocent people didn’t die under his watch.”

The Palestinian health ministry says the total death toll of Palestinians since the start of Israel's war on Gaza on 7 October has crossed 30,000 - the majority of whom are women and children - with at least 7,000 people still missing.

Abandoning Biden

Imran Salha is the imam at the Islamic Center of Detroit. On 12 October, 37-year-old Randa Ajaj, a resident of the town of Deir Jarir, just northeast of Ramallah, was shot in the back and killed by Israeli settlers, while her son was hit in the leg and shoulder as they were in the car. She was a relative of Salha. 

“I just want you to stop killing my family,” Salha said while talking about Biden. 

He explained that he has sat with young Arab and Muslim youth at dinner tables and they tell him that whatever the cost is, they are willing to take that hit for the sake of a potential long-term benefit. 

In the fiscal year of 2023, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported over 142,000 immigrants, almost twice the figure from the previous year, in a move by the Biden administration to intensify enforcement efforts and curb unauthorised border entries, The Washington Post reported.

Out of those deported, almost 18,000 were parents and children who were part of family units, exceeding the 14,400 family members deported during the Trump administration in fiscal year 2020.

“So do you see one difference between Biden and Trump?” Salha said. 

“I am not a fool. And I'm not foolish enough to say that Trump is a beacon of morality. He is far from it,” Salha explained.

abandon biden
Attendees listen to speeches during the primary election in Dearborn, Michigan, on 27 February 2024 (Kevin Dietsch/AFP)

“We will teach all politicians in the future that the demise of their political career could come at the hands of the organisers who support Palestine.”

To understand why more and more young Muslims and Arabs are threatening to vote for Trump, it is important to first see why they’re turning away from Biden.

In December, the "Abandon Biden" campaign was launched. Muslim organisers from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Nevada, and Pennsylvania came together to announce a coordinated nationwide effort to ensure Biden does not secure a second term in office because of his steadfast support for Israel’s military assault on Gaza. 

But they say the question isn’t why Muslims and Arabs are turning away from Biden, but rather it is why Biden is not choosing to listen to his constituents.

'If I were to sign the ballot with Joe Biden's name, the ink that I would use to sign that ballot would be through the blood of Randa Ajaj from my village'

- Imran Salha, imam

“He’s choosing to breach the lines of morality. And when you breach the lines of morality, you cause pain. This is why morals exist,” Salha explained.

“Morality exists in order to protect people from harming each other, and because he breached the lines of morality....the people responded by abandoning him.”

In October, the Palestinian health ministry said over 6,500 at the time were killed in Israeli attacks. During a White House press conference at the time, Biden faced questions about whether Israel was disregarding US calls to minimise civilian casualties, following reports from the ministry that the death toll included around 2,700 children in its attacks on the coastal enclave.

"What they say to me is I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I'm sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war," Biden said.

Biden later added, “I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using."

When mainstream media continued to push unverified claims from Israel that Hamas fighters were raping and mutilating women, Biden repeated the unverified claims. 

“Reports of women raped - repeatedly raped - and their bodies being mutilated while still alive - of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them,” Biden said.

“It is appalling.”

Four days after the 7 October attacks by Hamas on Israel, Biden spoke to Jewish community leaders in Washington DC. He told them, “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

“I never really thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.”

But he didn’t see any photos because there weren’t any. Hamas refuted the claims, and additional Israeli reporters on the ground started to report that they hadn't observed any proof of such beheadings taking place, nor had any Israeli soldiers they spoke with mentioned such incidents, The Intercept reported

A few days later, Biden walked back on those claims, with The Washington Post reporting that a White House spokesperson later clarified that “US officials and the president have not seen pictures or confirmed such reports independently”.

But it was too late.

“Because of those lies, six-year-old Wadea al-Fayoume was stabbed to death 26 times in front of his mother. Kinnan, Tahseen, and Hisham were shot for wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh. A Palestinian man in Austin was stabbed in the chest attending a pro-Palestinian protest with friends,” Salha said.

Salha and others will not allow anyone to try and pin the “angry Arab” trope against them, Salha said.

“Yes, we are incapable of choosing who the next president will be. But we are capable of ousting the current president with our vote. And our goal is that history will record that Biden lost the presidency and was a one-term president because of what he did to the Palestinians,” Salha said.

“If I were to sign the ballot with Joe Biden's name, the ink that I would use to sign that ballot would be through the blood of Randa Ajaj from my village. It would be through the blood of 30,000 innocent civilians. It would be through the sweat of the fathers who have to think about how they’re going to get food for their families," he said.

Lesser of two evils

Tom Facchine is currently the research director of Islam and Society at the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. He also spends his time organising with young Muslims and Arabs and took part in the Abandon Biden campaign. 

He explained that Muslim voters aren’t one bloc, saying there are those who support Trump, there are those who support a third party and those who won’t vote at all.

'He’s tripping over himself to facilitate this genocide against our people'

- Tom Facchine, researcher

“What we can unite on is what not to do. And that is to have a significant enough of an effect to change the political calculus of both parties, who basically think that we as Muslims will get over this,” Facchine said.

And then there are those who are choosing to vote for Trump out of spite. 

“A lot of people are saying things are going to be worse under Trump. But that's not apparent anymore. Thirty thousand people slaughtered. It's hard to imagine things being actually worse,” he said.

He explained that when it comes to Trump, there are people who say all sorts of things like “Maybe there still could have been a genocide like this under him.”

“But we’re talking about a confirmed actual genocide versus a potential one,” Facchine explained. “If I had to choose between the two, I’d choose a potential one.”

He said the concept of the “lesser of two evils” is much more complicated this time around. In previous elections, it was easy to decipher because you had one person “barking in your face” about anti-Muslim sentiments and another one sweet-talking to the Muslims. 

“Now you've got somebody who's just been directly involved, not just greenlighting, but actively assisting. He’s tripping over himself to facilitate this genocide against our people. So it's really hard to argue that somebody else is actually more evil.”

Salha believes the same. 

“How do we know that the evil that exists within the Republican Party is any less than the evil that exists within the Democratic Party?” he asked.

“We are in a situation where we have one party that would like to kill our families versus another party that would like to kill our values. And in the battle, between the preservation of life and the preservation of values, many will say that the consistency of America - its settler colonialism - will be unchanged,” he said.

“So maybe it's about time that we can at least preserve our values.”

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.