What do we make of Trump’s comments today to ban ALL Muslims entering the U.S? Does it legitimise Islamaphobia? Is it even ‘un-American’?
This isn’t the first time Trump has caused controversy, but it is the first time his comments have made the headlines on the BBC home-pages. Those advocating Trump for Republican leader have dismissively said his views reflect widely-held American views.
If this is true, would it mean a sharp right-ward shift is emerging in the West? Arguably, the Front National’s triumph in France last week lends some support to this view; but is it possible that 2015 is the year where the anti-immigration policies of the 1920s are reincarnated? Possibly.
But we also need to rationalise the context. Both France and America in the past month have experienced ‘Islamic’ inspired attacks; and in both societies, hard-line conservative policies have subsequently been pushed to the forefront of the political debate.
It’s a simple case of cause and reaction: Islamic terror attack inspires anti-Islamic political solution. Trump’s rhetoric was inevitable. And those supporting him are experiencing a moment of irrationality.
I’d be interested to quiz supporters of Trump on an individual, one-to-one basis, to gage how genuinely threatening they consider secular educated Muslims to be. More specifically, how do they define a ‘threat’? Does it have to be intrinsically linked to Islam? An interview with a Muslim man from Bradford on Radio 2 today raised a relevant point for me; do his plans to travel to Disney World, Florida, with his ‘Muslim’ family present a threat to American interests?
The main issue to challenge Trump on is the generalisation of his statement. I struggle to draw the conclusion that tourists seeking out Mickey Mouse travel to the U.S with an inherent hatred for American values; these children have no resemblance with those who brought down the World Trade Centre in 2001.
One thing is obvious for me, and that is the comparisons between Trump and Mc Carthyism, or Trump’s politics with the internment programme for Japanese American citizens during WW2; Communists were a scapegoat for the careerist politicians of the time, whilst the Japanese represented the ‘enemy within’. Neither were ever proved to be true.
Trump is a careerist politician who needs a scapegoat. His attacks on Islam are first and foremost a PR stunt. It is a bigoted reaction to what is fundamentally a distorted ‘Islamic’ cause; it is the reaction of a man seeking to capitalise on his stature to make political gains. I struggle to believe he will succeed; America has an entrenched liberalism within its society, and as I revert to my earlier point, I firmly deny that the individual American would logically conclude all Muslims to pose a threat.
Undoubtedly, a Trump success would have catastrophic consequences.
But we must value the benefits of democracy, even when it becomes an avenue for politicians to propagate inhumane, and derogatory politics. Most importantly, we must value the opportunity democracy provides to ethically confront these ideas. The supporters of Trump are disillusioned by fear and only through civil and honest protest can we triumph over zealotry.