While the US president’s immigration plans should be resisted at all costs, anti-Donald Trump groups in the US and Europe shouldn’t play into the hands of political Islam, argues DW’s Shamil Shams.
Making good on his election promise, President Donald Trump is expected to limit the number of Muslim immigrants coming to the United States, imposing visa restrictions on several Middle Eastern and North African countries. It's a shortsighted and lamentable proposal on the part of the Republican president indeed, but not at all surprising.
Trump demonstrated his right-wing credentials on the campaign trail. He is now planning to build a wall along the US-Mexico border and has already signed executive orders to curtail the fundamental human rights of US citizens. However, Trump must not be blamed entirely for the Muslim xenophobia in the US. Trump's predecessor Barack Obama is equally culpable for the US' deteriorating ties with the Muslim World.
We must not overlook the fact that the Obama administration is responsible for much of the mess we see now in Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and North African countries and the ensuing refugee crisis that now haunts Europe. And while Trump can be easily singled out as the culprit for promoting anti-Muslim sentiment, he is only reacting to a situation that the Democrat Obama handed over to the Trump administration.
Western liberals can criticize Trump as much as they like, for the new US president isn't worthy of praise on most matters. What baffles me is the liberals' unwavering support to Obama and his policies in relation to Muslim nations.
The destabilization of Iraq, Syria and Libya - to name a few countries - under the former president gave birth to barbaric and monstrous Islamic movements that the world had never seen before. Obama expanded the US war theater to relatively stable countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen, and in this geopolitical game, Washington worked very closely with Saudi Arabia. Many experts consider Riyadh to be the nurturer and exporter of Islamic extremism around the globe, yet Obama's supporters try to gloss over the ugly fact that the Saudi-US ties strengthened during the former president's two terms.
Obama's drone war on Muslim countries, particularly in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, proved counterproductive in his efforts to curb Islamic militancy there. It even turned the local populations against Washington. The Taliban, al Qaeda, the "Islamic State" (IS) and countless other organizations garnered more support as a result of flawed US strategy and were thus able to recruit a large number of fighters that no one seems to control now.
The US' first African-American president, who is also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, actually never reined in the hawkish elements of his country's foreign policy establishment. The George W. Bush administration's warmongering continued under Obama's watch. We must also not forget the role Hillary Clinton played as secretary of state in the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi's government in Libya. The North African country is now ruled by Islamic militias, and is at the center of an unprecedented refugee crisis that threatens the future of the European Union and the continent's secular foundations.
Of course, that doesn't mean that we should exonerate the Muslim countries for their own role in the crisis, their brutal dictatorships and their decades-old sectarian strife. I'm arguing that Trump's predecessor only aggravated these rifts.
A policy of denial
While Obama's wars continued in the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan, his administration simultaneously pursued a narrative of denial. By ignoring the threat of political Islam to the civilized world, by arguing that the refugee crisis was purely a humanitarian issue, Obama and Europe's liberal sections angered a large number of people who detested the Muslim-appeasing discourse. The terror attacks in the US and Europe perpetrated by Muslim immigrants are proof that not only the destabilization of Muslim nations was a mistake, turning a blind eye to radical Islam was equally disastrous.
Donald Trump is a reactionary politician who is now capitalizing on the anger in the Western world for his own political opportunism. He will use fear to segregate people and build visible and imaginary walls across the globe. His policies will strengthen the far-right populist leaders in Europe, who, if they come to power, will crack down on human rights on a large scale.
But those who believe in secular values and integration shouldn't fear Trump much. His battle lines are clear and well-demarcated. The way the feminist groups protested against Trump's misogynistic policies is an encouraging sign. It shows that Trump and his agenda will be opposed vehemently. It was not possible when Obama was at the helm. He posited himself as a liberal who cared for humanity while cementing ties with the most retrogressive Arab regimes.
At the same time, the liberal left in the West must not naively play into the hands of political Islam for their hatred for Trump and his anti-immigration policies. While it is necessary to keep pressure on Trump, giving more space to political Islam would be catastrophic. The portraits of Muslim women covered in the American flag during anti-Trump rallies in the US are not going to brush aside the fact that we are confronted with an anti-human and anti-women ideology whose objective is to conquer the West.
I recently read somewhere that the IS leadership would be happy now that Trump leads the world's superpower, as it apparently benefits their extremist ideology. It is a flawed observation. IS should be worried that the people in the West will now be more united against the hardliners in Washington and elsewhere in the world. Radical Islamist groups and leaders like Trump thrive on a climate of fear and hatred. Both should be resisted or we will lose the battle.