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When Donald Trump tweeted that 'Islamic terrorists attack Christians in their communities', he did Isis' work for them

There is no us and them, no imagined Dar-al Harb; in a globalised world these distinct cultural boundaries don’t exist. Ask my Muslim friend, who bought me a Christmas present last week

Kirsty Major
Tuesday 20 December 2016 13:49 GMT
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A lack of facts rarely stops Trump from forming an opinion
A lack of facts rarely stops Trump from forming an opinion (Getty)

It took the German Chancellor 15 hours to make a public statement following last night’s terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany. Aware of the impact a poorly chosen phrase could have in a country divided in its sentiments toward Muslim migrants, Angela Merkel said, that while nothing was known for certain, “we must assume it was a terrorist attack.”

Not one to let a lack of facts prevent him from forming an opinion, Donald Trump made a statement just three hours after the attack: “Isis and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad.”

He later tweeted: “Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland, and Germany – and it is only getting worse. The civilised world must change thinking!” The tweet, I assume was to make his point loud and clear, just in case we missed it: Islamic terrorists attacked Christians during a religious festival because Islam and the Christian West are at war.

Merkel 'shocked and deeply saddened' by Berlin market attack

This isn’t the first time that the President-elect has couched terrorism as a clash of civilisations between the civilised West and the barbaric caliphate. In March of this year, he told CNN: “I think Islam hates us.” When asked to clarify if he felt that there was a war between the West and radical Islam, or the West and Islam in its totality, he replied, “It’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.”

This (slightly convoluted) view is not singular to the business tycoon: in 2014, Steve Bannon, his incoming chief strategist, said that the “Judeo-Christian West is in a crisis” and is “at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism”.

As well as managing to conflate numerous Islamic denominations spanning over 50 Muslim majority countries, this binary thinking omits the simple fact that Muslims live in the West. We don’t yet know the identity of the victims of last night’s tragedy but we do know from the similarly horrific Nice attack in July, in which a lorry was driven into crowds on Bastille Day, that many Muslims were counted among the dead.

The first victim to die was Fatima Charrihi, a French Muslim woman from Nice. Following her death, her son said: “She was the first victim, there were no bodies before her. She wore the veil, practising an Islam of the middle ground. A real Islam, not that of the terrorists.” Later, a spokeswoman for the Union of Muslims of the Alpes-Maritimes said that 30 Muslim funerals were held for those who died during the attack.

There is no us and them, no imagined Dar-al Harb; in a globalised world these distinct cultural boundaries don’t exist. Ask my Muslim friend, who bought me a Christmas present last week. Ask the 4.8 million Muslims who live in Germany, who might have been eating with friends that night at the Christmas market, or walking home from work a few streets away. Terrorism is an attack on the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and that’s a right that German Muslims wish to partake in too.

Of course, the President-elect isn’t a fool. He knows that this divisive rhetoric serves to bolster his protectionist and isolationist domestic and foreign policies respectively. We don’t yet know who is responsible for the attack, but if it is an Islamic extremist group, if they want anything, it is an all-out war between Islam and “the West” – and Donald Trump should know better than to give in to terrorists’ demands.

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