US politics: Donald Trump’s gotta ‘very negative vibe’
Despite 9/11, American Muslims are much better off and better integrated as a community than those in Europe, and the United States did not quite have a ‘Muslim problem’ — until Donald Trump and Fox television invented one.
Trump, the Grand Old Party’s potential candidate for 2012 presidency, recently gave an interview to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)’s David Brody, in which he said that “[t]here’s something” in the Koran “that teaches some very negative vibe” and also asserted that there is “a Muslim problem” in the United States. Click here
Trump’s charge that there is “a Muslim problem” in America in fact originated in the rabid Bill O’Reilly of the hectoring Fox News. O’Reilly had earlier asked Trump if there was a Muslim problem. And Trump said, “Absolutely, yes”. (While discussing a proposed Islamic centre in New York City during an appearance on The View in October 2010, O’Reilly had asserted that “Muslims killed us on 9/11”.)
All this Islam-bashing from Trump, a religious, church-going tea-pooper: “Well I go as much as I can (on going to church). Always on Christmas. Always on Easter. Always when there’s a major occasion. And during the Sundays. I’m a Sunday church person. I’ll go when I can.”
Trump is an upstart who probably thinks there are new lows American politics could conquer. Therefore, Hadley Freeman writes in the UK’s Guardian: “Trump has never been averse to sacrificing his dignity at the altar of attention, but making himself the birther candidate takes his self-sacrificing nature to a new level.” And George Neumayr in the American Spectator: “The standards of American politics are so low that it is probably not possible for Donald Trump to lower them. Nevertheless, the media is treating him as a grave danger to the integrity of political discourse.”
Trump was once hailed, as Neumayr notes, as somebody who the Republicans could well consider promoting, until he “committed a series of unpardonable sins”: by switching, almost overnight, to the pro-life, anti-abortion side, endorsing opposition to gay marriages, and bashing Islam, etc.
Trump had his “Sarah Palin moment” when he used “the blacks” to describe African-Americans. Ironically, what he actually said was that a lot of “the blacks” supported him. Unfortunately, this is Barack Obama’s America of 2011 and “the blacks” is such a gut-wrenching epithet.
Then again, recently appearing on O’Reilly’s programme, Trump said he thought Obama wasn’t America-born and – guess what – that he could even be Muslim. It doesn’t matter if Obama thinks he is Christian. Or that authorities in Hawaii state – where Obama was ostensibly born — have officially refuted charges that Obama was born outside the US. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, has officially testified that Obama was born there. Click here
Rather than debating bread-and-butter issues at a time when America’s economy and public health care system are still traumatized, American politics seems to be consumed by conspiracy theories and a lack of civility in public discourse.
The problem is so acute that political opinion is now divided between the so-called non-birthers and birthers – denoting a group of people who don’t believe that Obama was born in the US. Trump is a Fox-promoted, self-aggrandizing birther. And birthers also tend to believe Obama is in fact a Muslim.
According to a recent Public Policy Polling survey, birthers now make up the majority of likely GOP voters in 2012. About 51% say they believe Obama was not born in the US; whereas only 28% say they think he was; 21% are unsure. That means nearly 3/4 – 72% – of GOP primary voters either think Obama was not America-born or are unsure. This must be the GOP’s collective opium moment.
To ordinary Muslims pushed to a corner by the events of 9/11, the war on terror initially did look different. It did look like a war on Islam itself. However, Muslims themselves have come a long way. They already realize that radical Islamists pose a grave threat to not just a large number of countries but to Islam’s identity as practised by millions.
Muslims now seldom dismiss any suggestion of domestic radical Islam in America as merely an Islamophobic assault against all American Muslims. They realize that there’s a problem to fix.
On March 10, 2011, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy testified before the Committee on Homeland Security hearing to discuss ‘The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response”, focusing on the need to fight it. Watch video
But irresponsible public comments, such Trump’s “negative vibe”, strengthen the belief that many in the West still taint the entire Muslim community with the same brush. By portraying Islam as the problem, they help the radicals even more.
Just like Muslims coming to terms with the “bad apples”, non-Muslims in the West must learn not to lump together the vast majority of law-abiding, loyal Muslims and a minority of belly-blowing Islamists.
As for Obama, he isn’t a secret Muslim. And, in any case, a Muslim isn’t a potential traitor, but Trump could be a potential embarrassment, a hazard who could better Bush. Certainly not the Trump card the conservatives think he is.
In Obama’s own words, from his Cairo speech: “American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch.”
If Trump gets a “negative vibe” from the Koran, then it is the same Koran that one of America’s founding fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.