WASHINGTON—Sixteen women gathered behind a podium at the National Press Club in Washington waving, clapping, cheering, and thanking President Donald Trump for fighting radical Islam.
“I’m Kurdish, from Kurdistan,” said Chiman Zebari, an activist working to eradicate the practice of honor killings. “We are women from Kurdistan, and I would say we are women for Trump.”
“President Trump may not be perfect, but he is the most perfect we’ve had in a very long time,” said Nahren Anweya, an Assyrian-American, who works to support the protection of Christians in Iraq.
“He truly is the greatest president I’ve witnessed in my lifetime,” said Persian-American women’s rights activist Mina Attaran, “and I am excited to see what the future holds.”
Formed about two months ago, the newly minted Middle Eastern Women’s Coalition has about 40 members, according to their PR manager, Paul Davis.
The women come from different religions, different professions, and from countries as far apart as Israel, the United States, Iran, Libya, and South Africa.
What seems to unite them is a dislike for Sharia law and the belief that Trump can and will do something to help women who are victims of it. Sharia, or Islamic law, comes from an interpretation of rules from the Quran, as well as edicts from Islamic officials.
It gives Muslims guidance on how to conduct themselves in everyday life, such as how to greet neighbors, what to eat, and how to brush their teeth. But it also deals with discipline, and that’s where it most stirs controversy.
In 2016, a 60-year-old woman in Indonesia was whipped 30 times in public for selling alcohol, which is forbidden under Sharia law in Indonesia. A year earlier, a man and a woman who weren’t married were caned for being “seen in close proximity” to one another.
The women, who gathered on Dec. 11 for their first press conference, focus on a range of religious and cultural issues that affect women, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, and honor killings, according to a press release.
Davis says the coalition plans to incorporate as a 501(c)3 nonprofit and hold future events. Rabia Kazan, the founder of the coalition and a member of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, says they are trying to add more high-profile women. They would most like to get Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, on board.
Kazan, who was raised Muslim and said she has nothing against moderate Muslims, supports Trump because he’s not afraid to use the words “radical Islam,” she says.
“He gave hope to Iranians because, during the protests against Sharia law in Iran, President Trump said something,” she said. “He said that this is wrong: radical Islam is wrong. We never heard [that] before.”
Hillary just said that she will not use the term "radical Islamic" – but was incapable of saying why. She is afraid of Obama & the e-mails!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2015
She also chided former President Barack Obama, who had refused to use the term, saying that radical Muslims who use Islam to justify terrorism shouldn’t be lumped with moderate Muslims.
“Obama has done nothing for us,” Kazan said.
Nattaran, an American-Iranian member of the coalition, said she voted for Obama twice, but called it a “slap in the face” when his administration seemed to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
“It was really a slap in the face for reform-minded and otherwise secular Muslims,” she said. “Voices that had already been marginalized were now completely blocked out by the U.S. government.”
Trump’s frequent tweets about the dangers of radical Islam, these women say, gives them hope that someone will stand up to those who oppress women in the name of Islam.
The same day as the coalition’s press conference, Trump signed legislation aimed at helping ethnic and religious groups persecuted by the ISIS terrorist group.
“And I have to say we’ve done a very, very major job on ISIS, there are very few of them left in that area of the world,” the president said during the signing ceremony, “and within another 30 days, there won’t be any of them.”
While no two women seemed to have the same advice for the president, they did agree on one thing—they all want him to keep speaking out and tweeting about the dangers of radical Islam.