AMONG the tidal wave of disgust and outrage touched off by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s bigoted call to bar all Muslims from entering the United States, the reaction of fellow candidate Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina, stood out: Mocking Trump’s own campaign slogan, “Make America great again,” Graham fumed that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric had made him the “ISIL [Islamic State] Man of the Year,” and said, “And do you know how to make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”
Former prime minister Tony Abbott of Australia provoked similar outrage in his own country with comments in an opinion piece for the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in which he argued that “the West should declare its superiority over Islam.” Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose ouster of Abbott from the leadership of Australia’s Liberal Party was in large part made possible due to Abbott’s divisive character, explained the problem of hateful rhetoric in a sensible way: “The one thing we need to be very careful not to do, and I’m sure Tony agrees with this, what we must not do is play into the hands of our enemies and seek to tag all Muslims with responsibility for the crimes of a few.”
Comments from the likes of Trump and Abbott get considerable support because they do, in fact, touch on some uncomfortable truths. Daesh, and other Islamic extremists such as al-Qaeda and Afghanistan’s Taliban that preceded them, are incontrovertibly Islamic–whether mainstream Muslims like it or not. There are no Jews or Christians or Hindus in Daesh. The group uses a vulgar, twisted interpretation of legitimate Islamic scripture and teachings to justify its actions.
This calls for clarity in the use of terms–like calling the Daesh Islamic extremists and violent Islamic jihadists. For reasons he should be asked to explain, US President Barack Obama and his people do not want to do call Daesh the way it should be called. This unwillingness helps confuse non-Muslim Americans and other people.
Non-Muslims can be easily confused in the absence of these distinctions, which is exactly what the extremists want. Confused reaction, expressed in disgusting terms by people like Donald Trump and Tony Abbott, leads to prejudice against all Muslims. And this will drive ordinary, peaceful Muslims into the arms of the Islamic extremists out of fear of the rest of us.
This situation imposes on non-Muslims the obligation to be more thoughtful about the provocative statements of our would-be leaders. For Muslims, it imposes the obligation to work harder within their own communities to combat radicalism and its causes. Both Muslims and non-Muslims can and should work together to help each other with these important efforts.
Utterly rejecting any hateful rhetoric, no matter what its source, is obviously a very good place to start. In Great Britain, they have a marvelous law that says if enough citizens petition the government to consider a particular question or action, Parliament is obliged to address the matter. The first test of this provision, apparently, is a petition signed by more than 150,000 people so far, calling for the bigoted Mr. Trump to be barred from entering the United Kingdom.
That sounds like a good idea. Our government has the authority to declare someone persona non grata by putting them on the immigration black list; may we respectfully suggest that, symbolic gesture though it may be (Trump has not, fortunately for us, ever hinted at visiting the Philippines anyway), we tell Donald Trump – and anyone who would seek to emulate him – to go to hell and express our national rejection for bigotry and hateful rhetoric by adding him to that list.