Donald Trump: 'I have at least 20 Muslim friends'

By Ruth Sherlock

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks with members of the media after a Republican presidential primary debate. Photo / AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks with members of the media after a Republican presidential primary debate. Photo / AP

Donald Trump has defended himself against accusations of Islamophobia by claiming that he has "at least 20" Muslim friends.

The Republican presidential candidate has repeatedly said that "Muslims love him" despite his provocative policies, but has so far failed to name any single individual Muslim supporter.

Asked by The Daily Telegraph to elaborate, Mr Trump again ducked the question responding: "Oh, I could give you about 20 of them".

The real estate mogul made the comment moments after coming off the stage of yesterday's Republican debate in New Hampshire, days before the state primary.

During the debate he asserted that as president he would reinstate waterboarding as an interrogation technique of the US military, and "worse".

Asked in the spin room afterwards what he meant by this, Mr Trump told reporters: "One day you'll see".

Mr Trump bills himself as the "straight-talking" anti-establishment candidate, in an election that is in large part being shaped by a popular disaffection with conventional Washington politics.

After the shooting in San Bernadino, California, in which 14 people were killed in an attack by supporters of the Islamic State (Isis) and in response to the growing refugee crisis, Mr Trump responded by calling for all Muslims to be temporarily banned from the United States.

The comments sparked an international backlash with business partners in Arab countries disowning him.

In Dubai, a firm building a multi-billion dollar development in Dubai with Mr Trump stripped his name and image from the property.

Donald Trump jnr, the tycoon's son, was also unable to say who his father's Muslim friends were, saying only that they had "completed a lot of business deals" in the Middle East.

Mr Trump's comment about waterboarding was the most hawkish response to the question given to the presidential candidates by the moderators in the televised debate.

Ted Cruz hedged his bets, saying he "would not bring it back in any widespread use".

Marco Rubio also left the question on the table, sticking to his nebulous response that it is not right to give away intelligence secrets.

While Mr Trump has caught the headlines, Mr Rubio has the strongest neo-conservative credentials.

The Florida senator's plans to increase military spending and expand America's presence abroad, as well as encourage the spread of democracy, are a revival of the doctrines of the era of George W Bush.

Mr Rubio has tried to distance himself from the neo-conservative label - mindful of how the designation was rendered toxic by the disastrous Bush administration invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But several key advisers and staff - including Alex Conant, his communications director - first earned their political stripes working for Mr Bush.

Speaking in New Hampshire, just days before the primary election, Mr Rubio has even adopted Bush-era rhetoric, telling his audiences that as president he would defeat Isis by starting a "real war on terror".

- Daily Telegraph UK

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