I, for one, have been of the firm view that 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, for the Roma of Germany had no share of the blame in the Treaty of Versailles, just like the Yazidis of Iraq had no share of the blame in the US occupation of their country in 2003.
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.
Donald Trump’s ridiculous suggestion that every single Muslim from every part of the world be barred from entering the United States making Muslims from Albania and Bosnia to Morocco and Dubai to Kazakhstan and Mongolia to India and Bangladesh to Malaysia and Indonesia fall in the same bracket is downright ridiculous, and only plays to the Islamist narrative of the United States being an enemy of Islam as a faith, rather than the United States seeking to uphold a culture of pluralism that the jihadists do not stand for. Interestingly, George Bush, despite his blunder in waging war on Iraq for oil, understood how anti-Muslim bigotry was misplaced and counterproductive, as you can see here.
Terrorism, and even terrorism citing a theological basis, is not a Muslim monopoly. As you can see here, very many instances of terrorism globally, even in the name of religion, 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. However, 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.
Muslims who have lived the American dream, like Fareed Zakaria and Mohammed Ali (the latter was a born-American and a convert to Islam) showcase what pluralism means, and how the jihadist ideology conflating US state neo-imperial activities in Iraq or Libya (not very different from those in Vietnam or Nicaragua) to not reflect on the pluralism and openness of American societies, where barring a few aberrations of minor, isolated hate crimes, there is room for everyone. Muslims who visit that country and see what it stands for can clarify their misconceptions, but depriving them of that opportunity would only actually help to boost radicalism. This video of a Muslim, who initially hated Israel but changed his standpoint about Israel for the better after visiting that country, is indeed interesting in this regard.
In December 2015, CNN carried a piece, employing facts and figures about American Muslims, that strikes at the root of Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry.
However, the problem with Trump’s politics is actually not confined to his bigotry towards Muslims, though it’s not surprising that someone who has such a high level of anti-Muslim bigotry is likely to not be very rational on other fronts too.
One of Donald Trump’s favourite areas of stupidity is with regard to women. The virulent attacks are often unmotivated. For example, on one occasion, he made a scathing remark against a female lawyer who was fighting a case against him, calling her “disgusting” when she asked for a medical break to pump breast milk for her three-month old daughter. He has passed remarks about the saving grace of a “nice ass” to avert tough situations. He has also predicted his winning the election on account of the fact that he “has” better women. That he views women as essentially aesthetically-pleasing objects is clear from his writing in his book Trump 101: The Way to Success – “Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art, is not just superficial or something pretty to see.” He has also said a man can’t trust his wife with negotiable assets. He has also attacked famous personalities and he seems to have this firm belief that any woman who is successful has to be beautiful and hot, that there is no way in which a woman can be famous if she’s not hot. He has taken this argument to a unimaginable level by saying that Hilary Clinton cannot satisfy America because she cannot satisfy her own husband. He also seems to harbor the belief that women are subtle, surreptitious beings capable of manipulating men endlessly and hence, they do not deserve the title of “weaker sex”. Trump has also spoken strongly against abortion, not only morally, but has gone to the extent of saying that they should be punished for their crime, though he later backtracked saying only the doctors should be punished, and he also backtracked on his stance on Muslim immigration, saying his rich Muslim friends should be allowed to enter the United States!
Trump had once even mocked a disabled reporter.
It is indeed debatable whether Trump personally hates Jews, given his close association with several Jews (Muslim readers who hate Jews would do well to read this piece with an open mind), but the point here is not his personal beliefs but his politics. The sentiment, “if you are a Jew, you should be afraid of Donald Trump” indicates a rather essential character of Trump, which is to support people of outrageous beliefs and to secure their votes. This is a sentiment that he voices and at the Republican Jewish Coalition he said that the Jews would probably not vote for him because they could not give him money, insinuating that the Jews are generally rich and therefore they buy votes, as described in this article, which is a disgusting generalisation. It is clear from this very statement that he has no particular policy in his mind and his stand on most issues is as frivolous as his stand on the Jews. It is interesting that most Jews vote for or identify with the Democrats and are even less likely to vote for Trump.
Similarly, then, the American Hindus have also taken notice of the fact that Trump’s possible discrimination against Jews and Muslims can be extended to the Hindus as well because of his many supporters’ bias against brown skin. An Indian-origin journalist named Sopan Deb was beaten up in a rally of Trump’s, as was a black youth in another rally. Trump is not to be blamed for this by any means, but the fact remains that he deliberately panders to the people who have such ill-informed and insensitive views.
Trump exposed his fascist tendencies when he once said he was awestruck by the North Korean dictator Kim-Jong-Un for killing his uncle, his brothers and their children and grandchildren to wipe out every possible enemy. He has even dodged denouncing the racist Ku Klux Klan, with his having recognized and then suddenly not recognized David Duke on several occasions, and Trump’s supporters have waved Confederate flags in his rallies.
During a September 2015 campaign rally at Iowa, Trump passed a derogatory remark about the Kenyan winners of the IAAF Olympics in Beijing, China, calling them cheats and con-men. They had won $7,194,000 in prize money. “Look at them, all of them, don’t you see frauds”, Trump asked.
In October 2015, speaking in Indianapolis, Trump reiterated his promise to deport Africans especially those of Kenyan origin including their son Barrack Obama and advocated recolonising African countries! To quote him–
“African Americans are very lazy. The best they can do is gallivanting around ghettoes, lamenting how they are discriminated. These are the people America doesn’t need. They are the enemies of progress. Look at African countries like Kenya for instance, those people are stealing from their own government and go to invest the money in foreign countries. From the government to opposition, they only qualify to be used as a case study whenever bad examples are required. How do you trust even those who have ran away to hide here at the United States hiding behind education? I hear they abuse me in their blogs but I don’t care because even the internet they are using is ours and we can decide to switch it off from this side. These are people who import everything including matchsticks. In my opinion, most of these African countries ought to be recolonized again for another 100 years because they know nothing about leadership and self governance.”
“I promise to make America great again by restoring our dignity that we have since lost through Obama. The more reason why I still believe that he, and his Kenyan brothers and sisters should be deported back to Kenya to make America safe.”
Nothing, even at a symbolic level, should undermine the gains of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King (Jr.). That many of Trump’s supporters have fascist leanings is also demonstrated by some of them having allegedly beaten up a girl black and blue for just having made a cartoon mocking Trump!
Donald Trump as US president is certainly not a good idea for the United States or for the world at large, and is a risk not worth taking.
I would like to thank my friend Suvankur Sukul for his inputs.
(Image Courtesy: Flickr)