I was wrong and I do not mind admitting it. My support for the front-running Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was a mistake. Initially, I admired his outspokenness and his record of turning losses into wins. I believed - and still do - that America is lacking strong leadership. But when strength is partnered with ignorance and deceit, it produces a toxic mix threatening the U.S. and our world.
In light of his recent bigoted statements and behaviour, I am amazed that he retains a double-digit lead in the polls over his almost as poisonous main rival Ben Carson who wrongly stated a Muslim president would be unconstitutional, and compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs.”
While I fully understand Americans are tired of President Obama’s inability to lead, if Trump gets to the White House they will be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
Each time Mr Trump came out with statements attacking or ridiculing minorities, political commentators used to predict his political demise. Not so today. The more hurtful and outrageous his comments are, the more his popularity with certain sections of the American public grows, which does not bode well for race relations.
While I fully understand Americans are tired of President Obama’s inability to lead, if Trump gets to the White House they will be jumping from the frying pan into the fire - one that will consume U.S. relations with the Muslim world.
Bad enough that he has referred to Mexican immigrants as “criminals, drug dealers and rapists”, described African-American youth as having ‘no spirit’ and stereotyped Jews as the ones he wants counting his money, his tongue-lashing is now pivoted towards Muslims. Not merely with personal opinions but with a pledge to close down mosques and reintroduce torture, such as water-boarding. “I want surveillance of these people,” he said.
On Saturday, he told a campaign rally that “thousands” of Arab-Americans in New Jersey were cheering as the Twin Towers came down on September 11, 2001.
“There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down,” he said, adding, “I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it but there were people cheering as that building came down.” Ben Carson piped up to say he had seen the very same video, only to retract his assertion when a slew of U.S. officials called it untrue.
There is not one scrap of evidence suggesting Arabs were celebrating 9-11 in New Jersey. Washington Post’s Fact Checker delved deeply into Trump’s claim giving it “four Pinocchios.” Politifact labelled it “pants on fire.”
However, there is something the U.S. media has chosen to bury. The only Middle Eastern “looking” people known to have been high-fiving on that terrible day were five Israelis working for a removal company, as reported at the time by ABC News and Fox News. Their celebratory behaviour attracted the attention of a woman who called the police. They were arrested and detained for two months before being deported.
ABC quoted their lawyer Stephen Gordon admitting his clients’ actions might arouse suspicions. “You got a group of guys that are taking pictures on top of a roof… They’re speaking in a foreign language. They got two passports on them. One’s got a wad of cash on him, and they got box cutters. Now that’s a scary situation,” he told the network. I believe that had they been Arabs they would not have been allowed to fly home for sure.
Their collective stance makes a mockery of the Statue of Liberty standing sentinel over New York Harbor and on which is inscribed “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
When it comes to accepting Syrian refugees - mostly women with children, the elderly and orphans - Trump does not have an ounce of compassion. They are a “Trojan Horse” he says and if he wins, he would send them all back or make them carry special ID cards. If there was a competition among Republicans for vindictiveness, the award would go to another candidate, Chris Christie. He says the U.S. should not even accept orphans under five years old. A man who has nightmares about toddlers has no business running for President.
What is going on here? Chris Christie is the grandson of Sicilian and German immigrants. Donald Trump’s mother was an immigrant from Scotland, his paternal grandfather was German. Marco Rubio, who has called for all places where Muslims gather, including cafes and diners, to be shut down is the son of a Cuban hotel maid and a barman. Ted Cruz, whose father fled Cuba in the 1960s, wants to introduce a bill preventing Syrian asylum seekers from entering America, whereas earlier he had shamefully blessed Christian Syrians only.
Their collective stance makes a mockery of the Statue of Liberty standing sentinel over New York Harbor and on which is inscribed “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
The red line
It is worth remembering the last time refugees fleeing war and genocide were turned back which remains a deep scar on America’s much-touted values. In 1939, the ‘SS St. Louis’, a cruise liner carrying Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust hoping for a new life was barred from Cuba and was subsequently prevented from docking by the U.S. coastguard as it neared Florida shores. The captain had no choice but to head back to Europe where many of those passengers died in Nazi concentration camps. How many Syrians being shut out now will suffer the same fate?
The word ‘conservative’ is now being equated to ‘callous’ when in essence the conservative moment was thought of as one that holds to universal principles in which racism, discrimination and the stereotyping of whole communities play no part. It is an uphill task trying to find a good guy among the entire Republican line-up. Each candidate vies with the others on who can attract the most media attention with the most shocking sound bites.
Trump should have crossed everyone’s red line when he his supporters allegedly kicked, choked and punched an African-American heckler during a rally calling the victim and his companions “monkeys.”
Hillary Clinton warns that “slamming the doors on refugees isn’t who we are,” and stressed that “We are not at war with Islam, but with extremists”. She is tough in the right way. She is experienced and, most importantly, she is one of the few in this race who sounds remotely sane. She is the one I will be rooting for on November 8, 2016 with the hope that Donald Trump will be forgotten in history as the bigoted loudmouth he clearly is.
Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.
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