Trump: Buffoon politics or a dangerous precedent?

Trump: Buffoon politics or a dangerous precedent?
6 min read
17 Dec, 2015
Comment: Donald Trump's danger lies not in the remote chance of becoming president, but in normalising hate speech against Muslims and others, writes Amr Khalifa.
Trump's racist narrative has been condemned internationally, but resonates with many Americans [Getty]
Words matter. Thoughts injure, and can kill.

This dark reality is best exemplified, in the US political bubble, by the toupeed PR wonder, Donald Trump.

In a Queens, NY, neighbourhood, minutes from Manhattan, a Muslim man was attacked last week by an angry assailant alleged to have been shouting "I kill Muslims".

"He punched me as hard as he can with his left hand," recounted Sarker Haque, a Bangladeshi immigrant. His attacker, Piro Kolvani, is now under arrest.

Haque's tears, not merely a result of physical pain, are a silent scream in the face of a racist hate attack. Attacks such as these may not be directly, legally, linked to the billionaire and presidential candidate, but they are part of the Trump Effect.

Whether or not Trump eventually garners the most powerful seat in the world, the US presidency, is a moot point: the damage he is doing to American constitutional ideals is nothing short of unconstitutional.

Though there is method to Trump's madness, there is little madness.

This is one very calculated man using a message of hate to manipulate the wretched underbelly of the national political psyche. Most horrifying about the Trump Effect is not what it says about him, but what it says about America, circa 2015.

There are reasons why Trump has found millions of welcoming ears for his hate speech. Chief among them is that hate spawns hate and extremism begets extremism.

When another hateful, racist man, in 1930s Germany, came of political age he found a ripe environment because of a dreadfully unjust Versailles Treaty. Rather than seek peace, the allies sought to declaw Germany and left a wounded nation vulnerable to the insane xenophobia of a man barely clinging to sanity.

Trump is no Adolf; he is quite sane, weaponised with a highly cynical political sensibility that eyes one prize: the White House, at any cost.  

The linear historical relationship between the extreme right wing runs from despots preceding Hitler to our newest malaises: Trump and the Islamic State group. Though IS hides behind a faux umbrella of Islam and jihad, while Trump seeks the shelter of a muscular patriotism to mask the sinister nature of his so called ideology, both are birds of a feather.

Team Cynical, aka the Trump campaign, understands that September 11th is, forever, America's fear button and they know it perpetuates ignorance. There isnt a person who lived through September 11th in the US that doesn't remember a two headed monster: a hyper-nationalism and the resultant systematic racism and profiling of Muslims which followed, powered by fear and blindness.

Years later, Trump still employs this to political advantage.

When IS comes along to mushroom that panic, in steps The Donald to capitalise on every American's terrorism fears. Easiest target? Naturally: Muslims.

The Paris attacks again catapulted Islamophobia to the forefront, particularly when IS propaganda followed promising attacks on the American capitol. All of this played right into Trump's hands.

IS' dream scenario features Trump as POTUS. Many analysts have, mistakenly, said Trump's message plays into the hands of IS recruitment. But Trump's attacks on minorities generally and Muslims specifically are a carbon copy of the IS message of calling the other "apostates". Trump and IS are two sides of the same coin.

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Though Trump is not explicitly espousing jihad, he stands for a Jihad Lite that is heavy on dehumanisation, racism and hypocrisy. It is no coincidence that his poll numbers faltered as the effects of his anti-Latino tirades waned.

Cynically, as replacement, he sought the most incendiary attack possible on 1.3 billion of the planet's inhabitants.

But where is the hypocrisy you ask? The very same Trump repeatedly calling for a national Muslim ID system and, a travel ban on Muslims into the US, is simultaneously enmeshed with Muslims in his business dealings.

At a time of financial troubles in 1995, it was a Muslim, Prince al-Waleed Bin Talal of Saudia Arabia who came to his aid by buying a Trump yacht for $18 million and later arranging a bailout valued at $325 million for the iconic Plaza hotel.

These funds went to Trump's creditors and served to keep him afloat. Similarly, his vast financial empire, valued in the billions, includes dealings with Dubai, where multiple golf courses are in the works.

Then, there are his dealings with Turkey who has put its chips, openly, behind the Muslim Brotherhood. But, whereas politically, Trump would likely consider the Brotherhood to be terrorists, he has no issue constructing a $400 million skyscraper in Turkey. For Trump, profit bellows, it does not talk.

This duality, of attacking Muslims while dealing with them to his financial benefit, only strengthens the belief that this race baiting is a political ploy.

At first blush, Trump's odious notion, at its core, suggests that all Muslims are terrorists until proven otherwise - a platform meant to appeal to the right wing of the Republican Party. Repugnantly, that dangerous gamble by Trump, rather than sinking, has propelled him and shown that the Republican Party is mirroring a shift to the right experienced by Israel's Likud over the past 15 years.

However numerous and complex the reasons are for Trump's successes, three things are true. Firstly, those who console themselves with a deeply held belief that Trump's chances of winning the presidency are between nil and none should rethink.

With a steady lead, and mere months away from political crunch time, the potential for a Trump win rises exponentially should a well-timed terror attack swing the country, further to the right. Secondly, in the event of an impending Trump loss, you can bet, based on recent history, that the candidate will up the ante even further on his hate speech.

Most dangerously, in the interim, the danger to Muslim American lives will continue to soar.

Just this past week, in Philadelphia, a severed pig's head was thrown at a mosque - the insidious equivalent of drawing a Swastika on a Jewish temple. In the Bronx, NY, a 6th-grader's headscarf was pulled off, as her attackers shouted she was a member of IS.

These two incidents are but two of a rash of similar attacks. Police certainly cannot arrest Trump for these crimes, but with his loathsome message everywhere you turn, there is no doubt, in many minds, that his message is setting the nation back on its racial heels.

President Obama was keenly aware of this, during his most recent speech, and spoke out against profiling and division. Yet the words of a lame duck president stand little chance against a platform that appeals to the lowest common denominator.

This Islamophobic messaging is being powered by, what the Southern Poverty Law center describes as, "one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes", Frank Gaffney. This anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim manifesto will, likely, continue to play well in America's heartland and South.

At a most basic level, Trump, who often wears a cap with the slogan "making America great again" is doing something no less sinister than bringing America back to McCarthyism.

Words will not stop Trump. America needs to seek out and find its compass to stop him.

But with Trump the worst is always yet to come.


Amr Khalifa is an Egyptian analyst and commentator. He has written for Daily News Egypt, Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Muftah and Arab Media and Society Journal. Follow him on Twitter: @cairo67unedited

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.