THE high-pitched showboating by Republican candidate Donald Trump seems to have no end. But the 69-year-old American billionaire’s ostensible best shot at living in the White House has seen him mouthing off relentlessly in his bid to out-poll his rivals. Notwithstanding the fact that Republican candidates agree that kicking the Democrats out of office next year will take a collective effort, The Donald thinks he can do the job by himself.
Over the course of the current political campaign heating up in the United States, we’ve seen Trump go from not believing in polls when they didn’t show him in the lead to bragging about them when they did. We’ve also seen him getting special treatment from the American media at the expense of the other candidates, apparently because whenever Trump speaks, ratings peak. Even if everything the very man who accused Barack Obama of not being American-born – and was later proved wrong — becomes more ludicrous by the minute.
Trump’s latest outburst has landed him into more political hot water than he probably imagined. In the wake of the San Bernardino terror attack a week ago that left 14 people dead and 21 injured, Trump called for all mosques across the U.S. to be placed under surveillance. A Muslim couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, both of whom are of Pakistani descent, are said to be the masterminds behind the attack that targeted close to 80 people at a holiday party.
Now regarded as the most deadly terror attack on U.S. soil since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the incident has called into question the efficiency of U.S. law enforcement agencies. And while many such agencies have acknowledged that they do need to step up their surveillance and intelligence, Trump called for something more, something draconian: a complete ban on all Muslims entering the United States. According to Trump, that measure needs to be adopted “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
While the South Carolina crowd to which he made that statement on Monday cheered, Trump has since been criticized by President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion. Even the Pentagon had a few words for Trump’s reckless comments: “Anything that bolsters ISIL’s narrative and pits the United States against the Muslim faith is certainly not only contrary to our values but contrary to our national security.”
Trump’s insipid comment is now fuelling a debate in the United States, particularly among the nearly 3 million Muslims (about 1% of the U.S. population). Many argue that while Islam stands for peace, there are Muslims who might harbour radical views. However, they believe that Trump is lighting a fuse under the powder keg by painting an entire religion with the same brush.
On the other hand, there are Americans who applaud The Donald for what they claim to be standing up in defence of America and not continuing the politically-correct rhetoric of openness. Many Americans fear that with the influx of refugees from Syria and other parts of the East posing a direct threat to the West, America’s borders would no longer be useful, they fear, when radicalism manifests itself into homegrown terrorism.
In response to the criticisms, Trump said on Tuesday that his plan was “no different” from that of President Franklin Roosevelt, whose wartime measures included putting Japanese-Americans in internment camps in the United States during World War II and “was highly respected by all”. However, some of his critics liken Trump to Adolf Hitler.
The question is, though, was Trump’s comment fair?
If you asked me, I think it was not. Ignorance, I believe, has no bounds in the world, including in the upper chambers of political wannabes. Most of us can attest to some politician – here and abroad – making senseless, baseless and insensitive remarks when they would have been better off keeping their mouths shut. If politicians are like this when they think they have power, just imagine what happens to them when they do get it. But if you think the ignorance resides only with the political figures, then you definitely need an education on how ingrained the problem is.
Just last Tuesday, I met a friend of mine, Natasha, in Constitution Park with three of her female friends, one of them a Muslim. After introducing them to me, Natasha bade them farewell and the two of us made our way out of the park. That’s when she told me the story about the Muslim friend being “sweet-talked” by a guy on the sidewalk a few blocks away.
After the Muslim sister failed to accede to his sexual advances, the brother saw nothing better to do but shout out to his friends, “She must be ISIS.” My friend told me that upon hearing his statement, the Muslim sister smiled and they continued walking.
Like Trump, that brother needs to understand that across the globe there are people who use religion for either good or bad reasons. However, religions are institutions; people are breathing creatures that have feelings, aspirations and expectations of respect from their fellow men and women. If you asked me, Reverend Jim Jones and Timothy McVeigh were Christians who cared less about what religion their victims were. But should we daresay America needs to expel its Christian citizens?
Religious fanaticism has been around for ages now. There was a time when people were burned at the stake if caught with a Bible. Today many are forced to leave their villages behind – or die in cold blood – if they profess to be Christians. Conversely, Muslims are targeted because there are those who take the route of spilling blood as opposed to spreading peace. The world is the way it is religiously because people still find it hard to be tolerant of other people’s religions. It’s as if we have an exclusive right to God.
As for Trump, it seems that the Republicans will do anything to ensure he doesn’t get the nomination. In fact, House Speaker, Paul Ryan, has already denounced the billionaire’s remarks, adding that Trump’s latest statement should exclude him from ever becoming president. Trump played a bad card and deserves to be trumped by his rivals for it.
One of the key lessons I learned from the Trump incident is the timeliness in which responses came following the Presidential hopeful’s unflattering remark. Here in Saint Lucia, months pass without political allies ever distancing themselves from words that serve to divide rather than heal. That needs to change.