The View From Asia

Watching Donald Trump warily

United States Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's remarks on Muslims in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris and the killing of 14 people in California drew attention worldwide, including from these writers in Indonesia and Bangladesh from Asia News Network newspapers.

Apologise for toxic rhetoric

Harun Yahya

The Jakarta Post, Indonesia

Mr Donald Trump, one of the Republican candidates for the United States presidential elections next year, continues to spark outrage with his remarks. After being widely criticised for his verbal assault on Scots, Brits, Mexicans and immigrants, Mr Trump once again caused a wave of shock when he suggested that mosques in the US should be closed.

However, that wasn't the most outrageous thing he said, and his argument that "Muslims should not be allowed to enter the USA at all" set off worldwide outrage.

Mr Jeb Bush, another presidential hopeful of the Republican Party, is just one of many who are highly critical of Mr Trump after these provocative remarks.

Activists and people from the Muslim community displaying a placard depicting US presidential hopeful Trump during a demonstration in New York on Dec 10 for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Muslims are a fundamental part of the US, with millions of them li
Activists and people from the Muslim community displaying a placard depicting US presidential hopeful Trump during a demonstration in New York on Dec 10 for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Muslims are a fundamental part of the US, with millions of them living there. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Obama administration also criticised Mr Trump for his outrageous suggestions, and Mr Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Adviser for President Barack Obama, said Mr Trump's rhetoric was feeding the propaganda line of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that the US was at war with Islam.

These warnings are crucial and make it clear that measures to discourage such rhetoric are required. If politicians irresponsibly defend state violence, injustice, hatred - in other words, full-on state terrorism - grim results might follow.

Therefore, it is crucial that Mr Trump immediately abandons this rhetoric. He has to apologise for his remarks, make it clear that innocent communities cannot be identified with terrorists and that all types of terrorism can be wiped out only with intellectual efforts through a loving, peaceful approach.

Hate speech seeking to set off a world war will only create more enemies for those who utter it.

It is estimated that more than seven million Muslims live in the US. Many famous Americans are Muslims, like celebrities David Chappelle, Snoop Lion, Busta Rhymes, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Will Smith, Janet Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal, Iman, Ellen Bursytn, Rasheed Wallace, Wesley Snipes, Anuse Ansari, Tony Jones, Nicole Queen, Omar Regan, Mos Def and Akon. 

More than 20,000 Muslims are active in the US Army.

All these people are not only a fundamental part of US society, but they are also great assets for the country.

The US, a strong union of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities on the basis of common values, such as democracy and freedom, should protect this diversity through love, compassion and kindness.


Trump reshaping political discourse

Mahmood Hasan

The Daily Star, Bangladesh

On Dec 2, 14 people were massacred in San Bernardino, California, by a Muslim couple.

The husband was a US citizen, while the wife was a Pakistan-born legal resident of the US.

The duo were killed subsequently after a police chase.

The FBI suspected that the couple had ISIS links and were radicalised. ISIS probably knew nothing about the attack, but when it learnt about the FBI's suspicions, it released a statement claiming that the couple were ISIS followers.

The US has relaxed gun laws. In a country of 320 million, there are 310 million lethal weapons.

According to CBS Los Angeles, as of Dec 2, there have been at least 355 mass shootings in the US this year.

What is different about the San Bernardino incident is that the perpetrators were Muslims.

That has changed the whole complexion of the perception of non-Muslim Americans towards Muslims.

President Barack Obama, in his address to the nation on Dec 6, has linked the shooting to the influence of ISIS. In his impassioned speech, Mr Obama declared a war on ISIS saying: "We will destroy (ISIS) and any other organisation that tries to harm us... Our military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary."

He was, however, careful not to alienate American Muslims when he said: "We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam... They (ISIS) are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death... Majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim.

"If we're to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies - rather than push them away through suspicion and hate."

Republicans criticised Mr Obama's speech for lacking any dramatic innovation.

What is not surprising is that the incident has created an uproar all over the world.

The US holds its presidential elections in November next year and, currently, several Republican candidates are campaigning in the run-up for the final party nomination. Among the hopefuls is billionaire Donald Trump, who is a front runner.

Addressing a rally on Dec 7 in South Carolina, Mr Trump dropped a bombshell when he called for a "total and complete shutdown" of the entry of Muslims to the US.

Speaking to cheering supporters, he further added that he would support heavy surveillance of mosques and would consider establishing a database to track all Muslims in the country if he were elected.

Mr Trump has also called for a ban on the Internet, claiming that it is being used to "radicalise young people".

Mr Trump, in his arrogance, has refused to withdraw his remarks.

Interestingly, surveys show that 42 per cent of the Republicans back Mr Trump, while 36 per cent oppose him.

He continues to be in the lead in the GOP presidential race.

However, we should note that surveys also assert that 57 per cent of the American voters oppose Mr Trump's plan. If he continues to preach his anti-Muslim rhetoric, it may be difficult for the Republican party to nominate him as their presidential candidate.

Sensationalism of this issue in media gives the impression that the West has declared a crusade against the terrorist group. Major news channels in the West bring in so-called experts every day to speak about the terrorist threats posed by ISIS.

These simplistic and motivated discussions clearly show that the West is thoroughly confused about the difference between terrorist, jihadist, ISIS, Muslims and Islam.

Mr Trump's demagoguery has trumped up a toxic atmosphere of Islamophobia in the US.

A vigorous debate that has reshaped the political discourse in the US has ensued, and it will continue to dominate the presidential election campaign in the months ahead.


• The View From Asia is a weekly compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers. For more, see www.asianewsnet.net

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'Watching Donald Trump warily'. Print Edition | Subscribe