Shock and awe: Middle East reacts to Trump's triumph

Shock and awe: Middle East reacts to Trump's triumph
4 min read
09 November, 2016
Trump's election has sent shockwaves across the Middle East. Whilst many have expressed anger and outrage, others have suggested that the former media mogul could prove more transparent than predecessors.
Some social media users compared Trump to Qur'anic villain Abu Lahab [Getty]
Donald Trump’s triumph in US presidential elections has been greeted with shock the world over, with the Middle East proving no exception. 

During the Republican candidate’s election campaign, Islamophobic rhetoric featured prominently and included calls to bar Muslims from entering the United States, drawing widespread criticism in the Middle East and beyond.

Given his lack of previous political experience, and tendency for hyperbole, the potential trajectory of Trump’s Middle East policy remains a mystery. 

Some have suggested that closer ties with Russia and an end to US support for the Syrian opposition are on the cards, others have claimed Trump could seek to dismantle the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, and support Israeli claims to recognise Jerusalem as  “the undivided capital of the State of Israel”. 

On Social media users in the Arab World were quick to express shock at Trump’s election, and a plethora of opinions over what this meant for the region, under hashtags including #Trump_American_President (ترامب_رييسا_لامريكا#) and #American_ elections (ٓالانتخابات_الأمريكية#).

Many expressed disbelief and anger, criticising Trump’s election as symptomatic of greater ills at large in American society, with some claiming that the Republican candidate’s victory was “shameful” and “added to the history of American racism”.


Translation: The world's craziest now rule

However, others —perhaps in agreement with a large chunk of US voters that voted for the billionaire, media mogul, despite a lack of prior political experience and quasi-xenophobic verbal attacks on minority groups — suggested that Trump could provide a breath of fresh air from the established political establishment. Some said he could potentially foster an era of more transparent relationships between the US and Middle Eastern states.

“An honest/clear enemy is better than a deceitful/disingenuous friend,” stated one Twitter user from Saudi Arabia, with another tweet from a Palestinian writer from Gaza stating “After Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections we will (now) see the true face of America, not the other face, which laughs in front of you, and stabs you in the back.”

Translation: An honest/clear enemy is better than a deceitful/disingenuous friend.

Translation: After Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections we will (now) see the true face of America, not the other face, which laughs in front of you, and stabs you in the back

In one peculiar trend numerous Twitter users referred to Trump as the Qur’anic villain “Abu Lahab” — some in jest, others perhaps more seriously.

Abu Lahab, is identified in the Qur’an as a vastly wealthy member of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca who violently opposed the new religion, earning himself God's scorn as Muslims believe.

Some, decided, amid uncertainty that humour was perhaps the best approach, with a fair flurry of lowest-common denominator references to the president-elect’s often parodied hairstyle.

Other posts simply pointed out that in previous incarnations, before his ascent to the White House, in addition to presenting The Apprentice, Trump had verbally sparred on WWE Raw with Stone Cold Steve Austin and met Macauley Caulkin while appearing as an extra in Home Alone II: Lost in New York.

Translation: I will kick your ass if you piss me off Donald.

Translation: A video of President Trump when he was an extra.

Trump's election has re-written the rule book, and many political figures who ridiculed the now President-elect during his campaign - including members of the Republican party itself - have now found themselves in the awkward position of having to pander, and make peace with a divisive figure set to become the world's most powerful man. 

In the Middle East one individual who has taken to social media to partake in an attempt to push a little water under the bridge is prominent Saudi Prince and billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal who previously rowed with Trump on Twitter.

During the election campaign, the pair became embroiled in a war of words during which the Saudi prince claimed to have bailed Trump out twice, and also accused the former Apprentice host of being a disgrace to all of America, stating in December last year: "Withdraw from the U.S presidential race as you will never win."

However, on Wednesday, bin Talal, taking to Twitter, had changed his tone. Rather than antagonise, in a complete vaulte face the Saudi Prince took the opportunity to congratulate Trump, through imaginably gritted teeth, stating:"President elect ... whatever the past differences, America has spoken, congratulations & best wishes for your presidency."