Article Op-Ed

Where the 2016 Candidates Stand on the Issues, Including Muslims

Where the 2016 Candidates Stand on the Issues, Including Muslims

Author Abdallah Hajaj by

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American Muslims face a precarious political situation due to an ongoing electionmarked by anti-Muslim rhetoric and Islamophobia. As with every election cycle, certain candidates and their supporters popularize negative comments about Islam.

Who, then, should you support in the March presidential primary election, and eventual general election this November?

We at the Georgia Muslim Voter Project have compiled a list of the top candidates in both parties and highlighted their positions on issues important to American Muslims. Though not an exhaustive description of each candidate, this list  should give voters a better idea of each candidate’s values. Top candidates were selected based on media coverage, donations, and achievements at the Iowa Caucus.


  • Donald Trump (Business Mogul)
  • Senator Ted Cruz (R- Texas)  
  • Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida)
  • Ben Carson (Retired Neurosurgeon)
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont)
  • Hillary Clinton (Former Secretary of State)  


Donald Trump

Donald Trump is a political enigma in the 2016 election. Throughout his history as a public figure he has switched party allegiances at least 5 times. In this election cycle, his comments about American Muslims have created further talking points amongst other political figures. His comments have been called “divisive” and not representative of conservatism, yet he has led the polls during the majority of the race.

General Policy Ideas

  • Immigration: Build a wall across the southern border and make Mexico pay for it.
  • Tax Reform:  Tax relief for middle class and anyone earning under $25,000 (single) and $50,000 (jointly), while also lowering the corporate tax rate to 15% (current tax rate is 35%).
  • Healthcare: Repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a health savings account.
  • U.S.- China Trade Reform: Declare China a currency manipulator, force China to uphold intellectual property laws, put an end to China’s illegal export subsidies,  lower corporate tax rates, and address the federal debt and deficit.

 Comments about American Muslims:

  • Trump has called for a complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States until a proper vetting procedure can be put into place.
  • During an Q&A session, a reporter asked Donald Trump if “we might need to register Muslims in some type of database, or note their religion on their ID” to which Trump responded, “We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.” To delve into the issue a little deeper to get some clarification, on This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Mr. Trump if he would “unequivocally now rule out a database on all Muslims as a result of the controversy surrounding the unclear remarks.” Trump responded with “No, not at all I want a database for the refugees [...] And I definitely want a database and other checks and balances. We want to go with watch lists. We want to go with databases.”
  • Donald has said, “You’re going to have to watch and study the mosques, because a lot of talk is going on in the mosques” and called the NYPD surveillance program “great surveillance going on in and around the mosques of New York City” (a program that has “never generated a lead or triggered an investigation”).
  • In response to Ben Carson’s comments about “not advocating we put a Muslim in charge of this nation” Donald Trump responded that “if properly vetted – the proper people properly vetted – going through an election, I think that anybody that is able to win an election will be absolutely fine." 

Senator Ted Cruz ( R- Texas)

Ted Cruz has a long background in politics, but has only been in the Senate since 2012. Cruz has worked as Solicitor General for the State of Texas and as director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission. He has also served as an Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice and also alongside the 2000 Bush campaign.  

General Policy Ideas

  • Immigration:  Build a wall that works, triple border security, and end President Obama’s amnesty program.
  • Tax Reform: Institute a flat tax of 10 percent on all ordinary income and replace corporate income tax with a 16 percent business transfer tax.
  • Healthcare:  Repeal Obamacare, grant individuals the ability ability to buy health care across state lines, and expand health savings accounts.
  • Religious Liberty: Instruct the Department of Justice, the IRS, as well as every other federal agency that the persecution of religious liberty ends today.

 Comments about American Muslims:

  • In response to Mr. Trump's proposal of a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until a proper vetting procedure could be put into place, Senator Cruz stated, “I disagree with that proposal.” However, Senator Cruz did later add during a Republican debate “I understand why Donald made that proposal”.
  • On the issue of Syrian refugees being admitted to the United States, the Washington Post quoted Senator Cruz as stating, “We should accept Christians from Syria, and only Christians because [...] there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.”
  • In response to Ben Carson’s comments regarding not putting a Muslim in charge of the U.S., Cruz replied that it would be unconstitutional to “prohibit someone from being president because of their religion.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R- Florida)

Marco Rubio is the junior senator from Florida, serving since 2011. He was previously a member of the Florida House of Representatives and served as Speaker of the House as well. He also teaches at Florida International University and owned a law firm. While Marco Rubio has a short history on Capitol Hill, he has a long history in government.

General Policy Ideas

  • Immigration: Finish the 700 miles of wall on the border, hire 20,000 new border patrol agents, and install $4 billion worth of new cameras and sensors.
  • Tax Reform: Lower number of tax brackets from 7 to 3, lower corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, and dramatically simplify the tax code.
  • Healthcare:  Repeal Obamacare and strengthen Medicare, create an advanceable refundable tax credit that all Americans can use to purchase health insurance, and reform insurance regulation.
  • Eminent Domain: Rubio says the federal government has been abusing the right of eminent domain and that he will fight to protect private property rights, as well as nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court who will also fight to protect private property rights.

Comments about American Muslims

  • In response to Mr. Trump’s proposal of a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until a proper vetting procedure could be put into place, Senator Rubio stated, “Ot is never going to become the law of the country, what Donald Trump is proposing."
  • Rubio said in response to President Obama’s speech at a mosque that is the “constant pitting people against each other” that he cannot stand and also said in response to anti-Muslim bigotry that, “ We can disagree on things right? I’m a Dolphin fan, you’re a Patriot fan,” essentially equating  anti- Muslim bigotry to a sports rivalry.
  • Marco Rubio does not believe that there is an anti-Muslim issue in America, asking “Where is there widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims?" (in the FBI Hate Crime Statistics Report the number of hate crimes against Muslims actually increased from 135 in 2013 to 154 in 2014) .
  • Marco Rubio has compared Muslims to members of the Nazi party.

Ben Carson (Retired Neurosurgeon)

Ben Carson is a world-renowned neurosurgeon who has held the position of Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital. Among his notable achievements have been the separation of conjoined twins and the development of a hemispherectomy technique for controlling brain seizures.  

General Policy Ideas

  • Immigration: Secure the border, solve issue of existing illegal immigrants in the U.S., and restore the concept of the American melting pot.
  • Tax Reform: Replace the tax code with a 14.9% flat tax, only apply flat tax to income above 150% of the Federal Poverty Level (i.e., a family of four will not pay tax on the first $36,375 of income), and eliminate the death tax.
  • Healthcare: Repeal Obamacare and replace it with Health Empowerment Accounts. Save Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Investigate CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations): According to Ben Carson, CAIR has “extensive ties to foreign terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.” As President, Carson says he will combat “terror aggressively, no matter how politically incorrect or difficult it may be.”

Comments about American Muslims

  • Ben Carson does not believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution and he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
  • Dr. Carson also believes that for a Muslim to be the president they must reject “the tenets of Islam.”
  • Carson called Trump's proposal to ban the entry of Muslims unconstitutional.
  • He has also called for working with clerics and Imams to bridge the gap between the public perceptions of Islam and Muslims. 


Senator Bernie Sanders (D- Vermont)

Bernie Sanders has only been a Democrat since 2015, but he was the longest serving Independent in congressional history and caucused with the Democratic Party. He served as a congressman for 6 years before being elected to the United States Senate. Since January 2015, he has been the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget committee and also served as the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

General Policy Ideas

  • Immigration: Ensure border remains secure, protect border cities, and regulate future immigration with reformed visa system.
  • Tax Reform: Tax Wall Street speculation, stop companies from hiding money overseas, and strengthen Social Security.
  • Health Care:  Create a federally administered single payer health care program and expand Medicare.
  • Minimum Wage: Current minimum wage is “starvation pay and must become a living wage.” Therefore, increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Moreover, establish equal pay for women and strengthen the Employee Free Choice Act.

Comments about American Muslims

  • Sanders has responded to  Dr. Carson’s comments regarding the potential of a Muslim president by stating “this is the year 2015 […] you judge candidates for president not on their religion, not on the color of their skin, but on their ideas, on what they stand for.”
  • Bernie called Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim’s an attempt “to divide us up.”
  • Bernie visited a mosque and spoke of not allowing anti-Islamic rhetoric come between us.
  • During a rally at George Mason University, Remaz Abdelgader asked a question that showed how committed Senator Sanders was to the plight of not only Muslims but minorities and immigrants throughout the country.  Sanders pledged to “end all forms of racism” and to “lead that effort as President of the United States.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton is no stranger to the political game. From being the First Lady when her husband, Bill Clinton, was in office to Secretary of State under the Obama administration, Clinton has a long history of working in local and state government as well as being involved in Congress as the Senator from New York.

General Policy Ideas

  • Immigration: Promote naturalization, allow families to receive affordable health care, and conduct humane but targeted immigration enforcement.
  • Tax Reform: Reform the tax code so the wealthy pay their fair share, offer 15% tax credit to companies that share profits with employees, and cut taxes for families.
  • Healthcare:  Defend Obamacare and expand upon it, crack down on rising prescription drug prices, and protect women's access to reproductive health care.
  • Women’s rights and opportunity: Ensure equal pay for women, defend women’s health and reproductive rights, and fight for paid family leave and affordable child care.

Comments about American Muslims

  • Clinton was perhaps the most outspoken candidate in either party about Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims, saying that it was “shameful” and “dangerous” as well as “playing right into their hands (radical jihadists).”
  • Hillary invoked the Constitution in reply to Dr. Carson’s comments about a Muslim president.
  • On the issue of allowing refugees into the U.S. Clinton said “slamming the door on refugees isn’t who we are.”

Whomever you are voting for, just be sure to get out and vote! The primary election will help to determine each party’s final nominee for President of the United States. Early voting for the primaries has already begun, but election day is March 1st.

Not sure if you are registered? Log in to your My Voter Page here to check your registration status and polling location.

Abdallah Hajaj is from Atlanta, Georgia and is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in political science from Georgia State University. Abdallah hopes to go to law school and become involved in civic engagement projects and the federal government. Moreover, Abdallah volunteers as a communications fellow with the Georgia Muslim Voter Project.

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