Beleaguered Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been aggressively wooing conservative evangelical Christians for months, but he recently took some time out to target another religious group: Hindus.
Last week Trump spoke to the crowd at a Hindu charity concert in New Jersey. Politico reported that Trump addressed about 10,000 attendees between acts of the Bollywood-themed show.
During his remarks, which Politico pegged as “surreal,” Trump spoke highly of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, criticized China and claimed he admires both India and Hindus.
“I’m a big fan of Hindu [sic] and I’m a big fan of India,” the reality television star said.
Donald Trump recently attended a Hindu charity event at which he spoke of his admiration for India and Hindus. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
But he also had at least one of his typical missteps. At one point, Trump referred to the Indian city of Mumbai by its colonial name of “Bombay.” Mumbai has not been officially known as “Bombay” since 1995.
Trump’s love affair of convenience with evangelicals is widely known. He has pandered to them non-stop throughout his campaign, literally waving a Bible at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit and promising to repeal the federal law that blocks houses of worship from endorsing or opposing candidates.
And while Trump has never singled out Hindus specifically for mistreatment, he hasn’t exactly made nice with many non-Christian religious groups before now. His animosity toward Muslims is obvious, but let’s not forget that at one rally in September, he asked any non-conservative Christians in the crowd to stand up.
Trump has also promised to protect the “religious liberty” of all Christians. He has not yet made the same guarantee to other groups.
It’s not exactly clear why Trump chose this stop on his campaign trail, but it may have had something to do with the fact that the event was hosted by Shalabh Kumar, founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition, who gave a Trump-related political action committee $900,000 this summer.
Given Trump’s attitude toward those who aren’t right-wing Christians, it’s safe to guess that his recent appearance in New Jersey will not make any significant headway with Hindus. Not all Indian-Americans are Hindu, of course, but Trump is not faring well with this community.
With all of Trump’s troubles, it’s pretty clear that the thrice-married real estate mogul who has admittedly chased married women while being a married man himself is not even close to meeting the strict standards of morality the Religious Right claims to cherish. So when he offers a large pile of promises to far-right Christians, one has to wonder if he’s doing so because his campaign strategy is simply telling people what he thinks they want to hear.
Is Trump now telling Hindus what he thinks they want to hear, too? Who knows? But it’s clear from his words and actions that Trump’s main focus is keeping the Religious Right happy – and even some of them are starting to express doubts about his sincerity. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hindus did the same.