When Mr Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for the White House, many people including myself found it hard to believe. After all, this was no corporate position he was running for. Some measure of integrity was involved in this race. At least, that was what I believed at the time.
During the course of Mr Trump’s campaign, he has made a number of Islamophobic remarks. Please note though, I am not one of those types of Muslims who yell ‘Islamophobia’ at criticisms towards Islam or Muslims. I use the term ‘Islamophobia’ hopefully with some discernment. To me, Islamophobia is an attitude which sees all Muslims to be of a certain trait. We are not. Islamophobes are likely to say ‘Islam says this’ or ‘Muslims do that’ although there is infinite variety within our cultural matrix. Perhaps Westerners don’t know this or don’t want to know this.
When Mr Trump vowed to stop Muslims from entering the United States, he was practising Islamophobia. Why? Because there is no way he could tell which Muslim would actually be a radical let alone one who could potentially commit acts of terrorism. Even if we were to give a generous estimate of one million potential Islamic terrorists in the world and a conservative estimate of one billion Muslims in the world (there are 1.7 billion by generous estimates), that would still be 0.1 percent or one in a thousand! So how would Mr Trump vet those who entered the United States? People do not declare their faiths on their passports! Simple: He would have to rely on their cultural element in their names. For example, names like Ali Amjad Rizvi, Sarah Haider, Saifur Rahman, Faisal Saeed Al-Muhtar, Maryam Namazie and others would spark suspicion even though they are no longer Muslims and have been very critical of religion. This is simply due to the cultural origin of their names. On the other hand, one Jeffery Lang (author of ‘Struggling to Surrender’, devout Muslim) would have no problem getting through customs owing to his ethnicity. Islamophobia, like it or not, operates on plain and simple racism.
Having said the above, I agree with Mr Trump’s resolution to combat ‘Radical Islam’. I just do not think that his aforementioned statements will help achieve that goal. ‘Radical Islam’ or what I prefer to term as ‘Islamofascism’ (the oppressive strain within the Islamic tradition) is endemic in the Muslim world but is not irreversible. Rather, it requires a reform project which engages deeply with the Islamic tradition and removes fascist elements within it.
In order for Mr Trump to combat Islamofascism, he must empower Muslims organizations which favour reform. There are many traditional organizations which preach a peaceful version of Islam but which refuse to engage with fascist elements from the Islamic Tradition. Moreover, they tacitly support fascist laws albeit when an ‘Islamic state’ is established. One deep and highly spiritual Islamic guru is guilty of this. He supports the murder of apostates, claiming that it is part of ancient Jewish law. This is a tacit incitement to terror yet he is termed a ‘moderate’.
Truth be told, it is difficult to trust any presidential candidate to do the right thing when it comes to Muslim issues. In our current socio-political milieu, Muslims are the perfect instrument to acquire political mileage especially if one engages in cheap and tawdry political strategies. Therefore, I would personally not put in much stock for Mr Trump to combat Islamofascism. He would probably continue the strategy of his predecessors which is wiping the wet floor rather than switching off the tap.