Americans urged to reject Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Arizona, on March 19, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Arizona, on March 19, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

Hurt and upset by Republican candidate Donald Trump's disparaging remarks against Muslims and his proposal for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States", Indonesian and Islamic leaders in the Muslim-majority country are calling for Americans to vote for the "less hostile" Democratic front runner, Ms Hillary Clinton.

Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) senior official Cholil Ridwan said Mr Trump will "undo all the good work done" by US President Barack Obama in improving bilateral relations. Mr Obama is widely regarded as Indonesia's "native son" who is sensitive to Muslim issues as his mother married an Indonesian and he spent his childhood in Jakarta.

"Donald Trump's campaign showed his hatred and rage against Muslims. He considers us his enemy. Well, since he rejects us, we will also reject him if he visits us," Mr Cholil told The Sunday Times.

Indonesia, with the world's largest Muslim population, and Malaysia, with the second-largest in South-east Asia after Indonesia, are angry and befuddled by Mr Trump's strong rhetoric against Muslims. Both countries' Muslim populations practise moderate forms of Islam.

In Indonesia, loud, angry voices have reverberated through social media and online forums, with many calling Mr Trump racist, arrogant, "a demon disguised as human" and that he "belongs in hell".

An anonymous online petition started three months ago, urging Indonesian President Joko Widodo to ban the billionaire and his businesses from the country, has garnered over 46,000 signatures.

A Trump-owned luxury hotel chain had last year announced its partnership with local media giant PT Media Nusantara Citra to manage luxury hotels in West Java and the resort island of Bali, marking its debut in Asia.

Political observers say Indonesians are more accepting of Mrs Clinton, who they believe will continue the status quo, and are indifferent to fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders as he is not a familiar figure.

Despite Mr Trump's controversial remarks, they believe trade relations between the two countries will not be damaged and the pragmatic government under Mr Joko will continue ongoing programmes whoever the new US president is.

In Malaysia, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, secretary-general of the ruling Malay Muslim party Umno, said: "I don't understand Donald Trump. What is he trying to do? He shouldn't come out with that sort of statement."

His counterpart, Mr Takiyuddin Hassan, secretary-general of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), the largest Islamic party in the country, dismissed Mr Trump's stance on Muslims as grandstanding.

A survey conducted in January by the US think-tank Pew Research Centre, of attitudes of Americans towards Muslims, showed a wide split between the Republicans and the Democrats. But, overall, most thought Mr Trump should not be sweepingly critical of Islam.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 20, 2016, with the headline 'Americans urged to reject Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe