Trump’s proposal is bigoted
Western politicians, especially in the United States, have endeavoured since 9/11 to emphasise that the “war on terror” was by no means a war on Islam or on Muslims. But Donald Trump’s call for a “complete and total shutdown” on Muslims entering the United States takes the fight against terror to a new and dangerous path.
Banning entry based on religion is unthinkable in today’s world. It serves only to exploit and stoke irrational fears.
To justify his outrageous proposal, Trump said in a statement released December 7th that he was reacting to “great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population”. He cited as evidence polls by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project and the Center for Security Policy (CSP).
However, the arguments he uses to buttress his proposal are not credible.
When it came out last June, the CSP poll was described as “deeply flawed” by the Washington-based Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University. The Center for Security Policy, which bills itself as the “Special Forces in the War of Ideas”, is described by the Bridge Initiative as “a group with a history of fear mongering”. Hardly the neutral or credible scientific institution on which a US presidential candidate can rely to suggest policies that can affect the lives of millions.
Trump’s use of Global Attitudes Project data is slanted. Research by the prestigious US institution has consistently reflected the concern of Muslim populations about religious extremism and their rejection of jihadists. In a November 2015 survey, for example, Pew reported that the Islamic State (ISIS) was viewed negatively by 99% of respondents in Lebanon, 94% in Jordan and 84% in the Palestinian territories.
Muslims should take ownership of the fight against jihadism and other extremist interpretations of their religion but preaching indiscriminate war on all Muslims is irresponsible at best. It could lead to vigilante assaults on Muslim Americans, their mosques and their places of business. Indeed, a number of such incidents already have been reported in the wake of San Bernardino.
Trump’s proposal cannot be dismissed as just another election gimmick with no relevance outside US borders. Those who look for evidence of US hostility to Muslims and Islam will certainly not dismiss it as such. Trump’s words carry the weight of his candidacy for the highest executive office of the United States.
The US electoral debate, especially since the Paris attacks, has been marked by xenophobic overtones. With a year to go in the US presidential campaign and with the shadow of the jihadist threat looming over the whole world, the fear factor should not be the prism through which US relations with the Arab and Muslim world are viewed.
Trump’s attitude could encourage intolerant attitudes outside the United States. Regional elections in France, which came in the wake of the Paris attacks, have yielded unprecedented gains for the far right. France’s socio-economic woes and not just terrorism are to be blamed for French voters’ rejection of the mainstream.
But immigrants have reason to fear such electoral advances considering the positions of the National Front, the French far right’s flag bearer.
Integration and inclusion of all minorities, including Muslims, is what the West needs. Anything else will only further radicalisation and hate.