Coming from India, which is indeed a noisy, pluralistic democracy that often fails to throw up the best of candidates, leaving us with rather sad choices like between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi for the national elections in 2014, I am not too surprised that Americans have left themselves with the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (though one expected better from a much more developed nation). Calling the US presidential race boiling down to these two “America’s shame”, Canadian commentator Tarek Fatah (an ardent critic of Muslim extremists and who has even been targeted by them), has further stated–
“Just a glance at the Democratic and Republican conventions says a lot about the rot that has overtaken the American political scene.
From plagiarized speeches to blatant lies, cover-ups to secret attempts by party heads to influence the outcome, America has fallen from a shining light on the hill to a laughing stock of its enemies.
In a nation almost evenly divided between conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, the 2016 election campaign began with Americans presented with great choices on both sides.
Candidates with integrity and character offered their services to the nation, but a populace fed on a relentless diet of reality TV shows and gladiator sports chose the worst of both worlds, on both sides.
America’s conservatives and Republicans were offered the wise and sane former Florida governor Jeb Bush; the tried and tested conservatism of Sen. Ted Cruz and the youth of pragmatic, middle-of-the-road Sen. Marco Rubio. Also the respected John Kasich, who could have guaranteed a GOP win in the swing state of Ohio.
But when it came to the Republican base, they went for the erratic and unpredictable billionaire Donald Trump, who offered nothing, other than being the only candidate who was able to identify and name the scourge of Islamism as a threat to the United States, and his promise to build a wall on the Mexican-American border.
It wasn’t Trump’s programs or policies that won him the GOP ticket. It was the bankruptcy of the conservative base of the Republican Party, who saw the contest as a mud-wrestling match on a TV show, rather than as their responsibility to choose America’s next president.
On the other side were the liberals and the Democratic Party. What began as a shoe-in for former secretary of state Hillary Clinton ran into an unforeseen obstacle — the remarkable Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont.
While Clinton came with the enormous baggage of shady deals involving foreign donors to her Clinton Foundation while she was still in office, Sanders appeared as the voice of America’s conscience.
Shamefully, the leaders of the Democratic Party tried to disrupt Sanders’ campaign.
Thanks to the Russians, we now know from WikiLeaks that party chair and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz was directly involved in the effort to sabotage Sanders.
Just like their Republican counterparts, liberal Americans refused to choose a candidate of character and integrity, instead choosing a woman who is known to have lied and risked the security of her country.”
However, I may point out that Bernie Sanders did highlight the problem of Islamism and did give his suggestions on how to incisively deal with it, and Hillary Clinton did so too after the recent terrorist attack in Nice, France.
Indeed, as I have discussed in some detail in an earlier article, the problem of Islamism (trying to impose a theocratic framework based on a certain politicised version of Islam that violates the rights of women, homosexuals, non-Muslims and even Muslims of other sects), exemplified in its most extreme forms like the ISIS, the Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and the likes, is indeed the biggest ideological threat to a modern conception of human rights today as Nazism was once, and should be acknowledged as such without any reservations whatsoever, as I have discussed in this article which also furnishes my ideological roadmap for countering this menace (those offering conspiracy theories about jihadist terrorism should read this article). A dispassionate analysis of its rise would take us to wrongdoings of various global powers in the West, just as a purely dispassionate analysis of the rise of Nazism would take us to the injustice in the Treaty of Versailles, but such intolerant, totalitarian ideologies invoking identity-based chauvinism, while never having any justification, cannot be conveniently explained away only on the basis of wrongdoing by others either, and the same applies to Islamism.
However, antipathy to Nazism as an ideology shouldn’t translate into bigotry towards Germans as people, many of whom opposed Nazism from the very start, and many of whom, even while not being Jewish or Roma, resisted Nazism, many paying for the same even with their lives, and the same can be said about Muslims vis-a-vis Islamism, like Salman Taseer, Ahmad Shah Massoud and the Kurdish fighters taking on the ISIS, even rescuing Yazidis and Christians. To refuse to make such a distinction would be undermining the very human rights framework we seek to uphold and for which we oppose Islamism, and it must be noted that the innocent victims of jihadist terrorism globally, especially in the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc. have included more Muslims than those of other faiths, for the extremist minority wishes to impose its ultra-theocratic framework rejected by most Muslims.
Terrorism even claiming a theological basis is not a Muslim monopoly. As you can see here, many instances of terrorism globally can be cited even in the name of religion, which have been carried out by those identifying themselves as Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and even Buddhists, the victims of the acts of terrorists from each of these religious groupings not always being Muslims. Just like most people of these religious groupings are not terrorists or supporters of terrorism, and they do not believe that their religion preaches terrorism, the same is the case with most Muslims (and not supporting terrorism applies to even most of those Muslims with other regressive and not-so-liberal attitudes on issues like gender and homosexuality).
It is possible to quote any scripture (allegedly out of context according to its liberal adherents) to justify malpractices, like some verses in the Bible namely Deuteronomy 13:12-15, Samuel 15:3, Leviticus 24:16 and Matthew 10:34 seemingly advocate violence against “non-believers” and the Purusha Sukta of the Rigved, an ancient Hindu scripture, is taken by some to justify caste discrimination, but these verses do not define the entire religion. This article mentioning an anecdote from the British parliament does make an interesting read in this regard, as does this video make an interesting watch in this connection. There are Quranic verses like 2:256, 5:2, 5:8, 5:32, 6:108, 6:151, 10:99, 49:13, 60:8 and 109:6 preaching peace, religious tolerance and human brotherhood, as does the letter from Prophet Muhammad to the Christian monks of St Catherine’s monastery and there are episodes from Prophet Muhammad’s life, as per Islamic lore, indicative of such an approach too, such as his allowing a woman to throw garbage at him daily and his succeeding in ideologically, winning over her by way of humanitarian affection. Those suggesting that peaceful verses in the Quran are superseded by violent verses (which the vast majority of practising Muslims globally regard as contextual) would do well to note that verse 109:6 appears towards the end of the book, and preaches nothing but peace, and the Quran and Hadiths devote considerable space to talking about honesty (there’s an anecdote of Prophet Muhammad punishing a Muslim for stealing from a Jewish gentleman’s house), kindness, forgiveness, humility and striving for socioeconomic egalitarianism.
Very many mainstream Muslims do indeed believe that Islam is the only religion that can lead to God since the advent of Prophet Muhammad, as mainstream Christians believe the same for Christianity since the advent of Jesus, but that doesn’t entail intolerance towards those of other faiths. To explain this with an analogy, if a certain coaching centre (analogous to Islam or Christianity, going by the mainstream interpretation) claims it is the only one that can get students admitted into say, IIT (analogous to heaven), and even encourages its students to get students of other coaching centres and those not taking any coaching to join that particular coaching centre, it cannot be equated with forcing others to join their institute or killing those not willing to do so. In fact, both the Bible and the Quran preach the message of peaceful coexistence with other religious groups (the relevant verses in the context of the Quran have already been cited, and Rom. 12:18 and 1 Tim 2:2 may be cited in the context of the Bible).
Speaking of apostates of Islam (“ex-Muslims”) criticising their former religion, there is a fairly well-known website run by an apostate and basher of Islam who has even offered a cash prize to anyone who can disprove his allegations against Prophet Muhammad (but there are books by apostates of other religions criticizing their former religions too, the most famous one being ‘Why I Am Not a Christian’ by Bertrand Russell, and there’s also ‘Why I am Not a Hindu’ by Kancha Ilaiah, leveling very strong allegations), but practically, he is the judge of the debate, or to go by what he is saying, the “readership” of the website, a rather non-defined entity. In fact, he has acknowledged that he came across a Muslim who “intelligently argued his case and never descended to logical fallacies or insults” and while that Islam-basher “did not manage to convince him to leave Islam”, that Muslim earned his “utmost respect”, which implies that practically, the Islam-basher is the judge of the debate. Likewise, that Islam-basher has mentioned with reference to a scholar of Islam he debated with, that the latter was “a learned man, a moderate Muslim and a good human being” and someone he (the Islam-basher) has “utmost respect for”. So, that Islam-basher’s critique of Islam, whether valid or invalid, has no relevance in terms of making blanket stereotypes about the people we know as Muslims or even practising Muslims. By the way, that Islam-basher bashes Judaism too. And it is worth mentioning that I have encountered several practising Muslims on discussion groups on the social media, who have, in a very calm and composed fashion, logically refuted the allegations against Islam on such websites. Indeed, as you can see here and here, there are several other apostates of Islam who have stated that while they personally left Islam thinking that the extremist interpretations are correct and moderate ones wrong (as is the case with apostates of many other religions), they have equally explicitly emphasized that that does not in the least mean that they believe that most people identifying themselves as practising Muslims support violence against innocent people.
And in fact, even speaking of the West, a report submitted by Europol, the criminal intelligence agency of the European Union, showed that only 3 out of the 249 terrorist attacks (amounting to about 1.2%) carried out in Europe in 2010 were carried out by Muslims. Even in the United States, most terrorist attacks from 1980 to 2005 were not carried out by Muslims. And no, I am not in the least seeking to undermine the heinousness of the crimes committed by some in the name of Islam by pointing to others having committed similar crimes under other ideological banners, for a more highlighted wrongdoing is no less of a wrongdoing than a less highlighted wrongdoing, but only to point out that viewing only Muslims as villains, and that too, all or even most of them, would indeed be grossly incorrect. However, despite jihadist terrorists being a microscopic minority of Muslims, Islamist terrorism has become a bigger global threat for its well-coordinated international network since the 1990s, with the US-backed Islamist resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan having signaled its rise. And, let us not forget that when we had the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the victims included Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer who died fighting the terrorists (and by the way, there are more French Muslims in the local police, including those who have died fighting jihadist terrorists, than in the Al Qaeda unit in their country), Mustapha Ourad, a Muslim who was one of the magazine staff members killed in that attack and there was Lassana Bathily, a Muslim shopkeeper who gave sanctuary to many innocent civilians during the hostage crisis in Paris that had followed.
As I pointed out in that piece citing Trump’s statements, his brand of politics is not about fighting the real problem of Islamism, but about bigotry, racism, misogyny (he has made many sexist statements), authoritarianism and idiocy.
Ever since I wrote that piece, there have been two major developments that further expose Trump.
In the wake of Roger Ailes’ humiliating fall from the helm of Fox News over allegedly sexually harassing several women, Trump has been questioned about the scandal and his own views on sexual harassment at workplaces. Trump’s reaction has been that the allegations against Ailes, his friend, seem overblown.
When Trump was asked how he would feel if his daughter Ivanka were subjected to the kind of harassment that women at Fox allegedly experienced, rather than calling for the harasser to be punished, he said, “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case.”
The next day, Trump’s son Eric offered his two cents. “I think what he’s saying is, Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman” who wouldn’t “allow herself to be subjected to that,” he said.
Eric seemed to suggest that strong women do not face sexual harassment in the first place, insinuating that women who do experience it are somehow weak. None other than Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, an alleged victim of Ailes’s harassment, summed up her dismay with Eric Trump’s comments in one word on Twitter – “sigh”.
Neither Trump nor his son seemed to acknowledge the fact that Ivanka had to navigate the issue of harassment at work. But according to her own book, early in her career, Ivanka did worry about advances from construction workers and the male-dominated world of real estate. She even tried to change her appearance to ward off harassment.
The next important incident I’d like to cite is how Trump insulted an American war hero, who happened to be Muslim, and who sacrificed his own life to protect those of soldiers under his command in the Iraq war (it is another matter that that whole war waged by America under Bush was unnecessary). On this point, I’d like to qyote Shamila Ghyas Ahmad, a liberal vociferously critical of Muslim extremism. She points out–
“One of the supposedly most low-key expected speeches at the Democratic National convention turned out to be the strongest and most popular too. Pakistani heritage lawyer Khizr Khan, with his wife firmly by his side, recounted the story of his Muslim American war hero son, Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq.
A car had blown up taking his life after he instructed his troops to stay back while he opted to inspect the vehicle on his own. He saved many lives of the soldiers he supervised that day. He was only 27 and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his bravery posthumously.
His Gold Star parent shamed Trump for being intolerant and for not sacrificing anything or anyone like he had.”
“Trump is known to speak before thinking, to hit below the belt without any filters, and to attack rather than save face. Hillary Clinton and her team definitely knew this and no doubt, expected such a reply from him when they presented Humayun Khan’s story; Trump delivered!
Instead of appreciating his sacrifice as an American soldier, he instead defended his own ‘sacrifices’ and then verbally attacked the mother, Ghazala Khan, insinuating that she had been forcibly silenced because of her Muslim faith. The perfect response to this as seen on Facebook was:
First of all, what sacrifice is he talking about? Just taking some of his father’s money as opposed to all? That kind of sacrifice? Or that he has decided to stick to wife number three for now? Or the sacrifice that he stays quiet sometimes while his own sons go around hunting endangered animals for fun?
As for Ghazala Khan standing beside her husband; if listening to him talk is being forcibly silenced, then what is Mrs Trump doing here? His words were, ‘If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. Maybe she wasn’t allowed to. You tell me.’
I think we need to ask him the same question now.
Of course when she does speak, it is usually a plagiarised speech! But again, that’s another matter altogether.
Ghazala Khan, on the other hand, gave a very apt response in an op-ed on Washington Post clearing her up side.
There is not enough damage control that could fix this. There are many republicans who chose Trump and put him right there on his seat, now rushing to make sympathetic remarks to the Khan family and apologising. Trump played right into Clinton’s hands and quite literally has hit himself on his own head.
And as the days go by, his comments regarding this whole matter, the constant attacks against the American war hero and his gold star family have started to create doubt in the minds of his supporters and has had many turn away from him. But can you really blame them? If he could not even bring himself to comfort the family of heroes, how is he to, as the US president, comfort an entire nation?
To him I say, Trump, bigotry will only get you so far!”
A lot of big American corporations like Microsoft and Apple shunned the Republican Party convention in July 2016, apparently to not alienate customers who may be offended by Trump’s statements.
As I said in my previous piece, Donald Trump as US president is certainly not a good idea for the United States or for the world at large, and is certainly a risk not worth taking.
(Image Courtesy: Flickr)