On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) hosted a meeting with the nation’s oldest interfaith peace organization, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who pleaded with him to publicly stand up to the Islamophobia in his party and promote tolerance of refugees.
A few hours later, Ryan announced he’d be voting for the person who has been the loudest voice stoking fear of Muslims and refugees: Donald Trump.
Following their meeting at his Janesville, Wisconsin office, the Fellowship of Reconciliation said Paul promised the group that he would “speak out against anti-Muslim rhetoric” and visit the new Muslim Community Center and Masjid in his hometown. Anthony Grimes, the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Director of Campaigns and Strategy, told ThinkProgress the meeting included a local Muslim faith leader and his daughter, Salih Erschen and Sabrina Erschen, who “shared their stories about what it’s like to be Muslim in this country.”
“Mr. Ryan was supportive of trying to build a country of people of all faiths,” Grimes said. “He affirmed much of our messaging.”
Before learning of Ryan’s endorsement of Trump, Grimes praised him for making “a bold stand for freedom of religion,” referring to his speech last year condemning Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants from the U.S. “His willingness to speak out against those who would jettison core tenets of the Constitution makes him an ideal person to initiate a national discussion,” he said.
But after he learned that Ryan, mere hours after the meeting, had publicly vowed to vote for Trump, Grimes had sharper words for the House Speaker.
This endorsement from the Speaker is an endorsement of the blatant bullying, bigotry and incitements to violence that characterize the Trump campaign.
“We strongly reject the blatantly duplicitous ability of Rep. Ryan to express a commitment to end Islamophobia, while — literally — at the same time endorsing the most xenophobic, anti-Muslim candidate of modern times,” he said. “Nothing short of Paul Ryan denouncing Islamophobia on the Republican convention floor as inconsistent with American values can salvage Ryan’s misty-eyed vision of a Conservative Party that rises above petty politics, cheap point scoring and fear mongering.”
La Trina Jackson, a Muslim imam and a board member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, also tore into Ryan’s move. “On the eve of the holy month of Ramadan, Rep. Ryan claims he has grown sufficiently ‘comfortable’ with Trump’s ‘principles’ to offer a full endorsement, with no concessions, ‘no deals,’ and no mention of his previous condemnation of Trump’s hate-mongering,” she wrote. “This endorsement from the Speaker is an endorsement of the blatant bullying, bigotry and incitements to violence that characterize the Trump campaign.”
Ryan has moved in less than a month from staunch opposition to Trump, to a “cordial” meeting with him, to a grudging endorsement on Thursday, all without extracting any changes in his rhetoric or policies regarding Muslims and refugees, or apologies for past offensive statements.
“It’s no secret that he and I have our differences,” Ryan wrote in an op-ed for his hometown paper. “I won’t pretend otherwise. And when I feel the need to, I’ll continue to speak my mind. But the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement.”
The Fellowship of Reconciliation has been one of several groups monitoring the impact of Trump’s rhetoric about not only Muslims and refugees, but Latinos and other people of color. Both they and other human rights groups have observed a spike in threats, harassment, vandalism, and physical violence directly inspired by Trump’s words.
“Words matter, and this narrative of fear and hate has a visceral and dangerous impact,” said Grimes. “We are seeing a quantifiable increase in violent attacks on places of worship and people perceived to be foreign.”
Ryan, who has for the past few years chastised his own party for driving away people of color, including nothing in his written endorsement of Trump about racial and religious tolerance.