The mood is damp and oh so ugly. It is difficult to believe that in two months’ time, the first black President of the United States will hand over the keys to the White House to a man who got there on an Islamaphobic, xenophobic ticket and ended up being congratulated by a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard. One step forward, eight steps back, not least since Trump has vowed to repeal “every Obama executive order”. The parallels with Brexit are sobering: we all saw it coming but buried our heads in the sand. This was always going to be a “Brexit plus plus”.
Rather like the Brexit buffoons in Westminster who set the scene for this mind-numbing victory, Trump has no action plan. The world – its leaders, markets and people – roam around in a penumbra of hopeless uncertainty. Whatever next? If he follows through on all the bilious rhetoric that catapulted him into power, his first 100 days will be eventful and gruesome.
In his own words, the egomaniac will be preparing to “bomb the shit out of Isis”, starting the process of “removing the more than two million criminal, illegal immigrants”, “vetting” all Muslim travelling to the so-called land of the free, withdrawing from NATO, cancelling all payments to UN climate change programmes, starting trade wars with China and forcing Mexico to cough up for that infamous wall. Busy days ahead, indeed.
In the wake of the result, some have already come out in force to argue that Trump will be more moderate than he was on the campaign trail. He has, after all, shown Democratic tendencies in the past. He is a businessman in the end, they say; a pragmatist who thinks with his head rather than heart, uninterested in ideology. That may be so. It may not. We will find out in the months to come.
Yet for Muslim, black and Hispanic Americans, the damage is already done: Trump has unlocked Pandora’s box. The demons of hate, intolerance, ignorance and division have been set free.
Trump has created a bigger, more powerful beast than himself: his supporters are angrier and more emboldened than ever before. Their leader can (potentially) be tamed. His 100 million (mostly white and male) army cannot.
Trump may rein it in and play by the rules of the game, but the politics of hate is here to stay. The high officials in the Pentagon might well stop him from pressing the nuclear button or bombing countries where Isis operates to smithereens, but they cannot contain the hatred and inter-racial hostility on the streets of America.
That leaves ethnic and religious minorities in a heartbreakingly vulnerable position. Trump’s victory will legitimise racially and religiously motivated attacks. How many more innocent young black men will die thanks to police brutality or unprovoked attacks? Trump seems unfazed: gun-free zones, he promised, will be a thing of the past.
Also precarious is the position of American Muslims. Indeed, Trump has responded to a number of Isis terrorist attacks by vilifying Islam in general, heavily implying that any follower of the religion is somehow tainted by the acts of a few wrong-headed fundamentalists. Now victorious, Trump has clothed hate and Islamaphobia with a shroud of legitimacy.
This morning I spoke to my own Muslim family in Arizona, a state which voted resoundingly in favour of Trump. My 14-year-old cousin told me how she was labelled a “sand n***er” at school in the run-up to the election. At her school, the canteen is segregated: “There are four long tables – one for the Arabs where I sit, one for the Mexicans, one for the blacks and one for the real Americans.”
When I asked her what she meant by “real Americans”, she replied, without a shred of sarcasm or irony: “The white kids.” How terribly sad that non-white children are being made to feel like they don’t belong in America, that “beacon of hope” whose Constitution purports to guarantee racial and religious equality.
Trump’s victory is not only eye-wateringly worrying for American Muslims. The bigots of Europe and elsewhere have taken note. European Muslims (to be distinguished from British Muslims, of course) know that an even bigger tide of venomous hatred is making its way from across the Atlantic.
The business mogul now finds himself the protagonist in the next installment of George W Bush’s so-called War on Terror. And Trump’s Islamophobic ticket to the White House will surely benefit Marine Le Pen in next year’s French election, as it will with other far-right groups standing in elections all across Europe.
On 7th June 2016, in an article for the New Statesman, Ian Leslie wrote: “Calm down, Trump won’t be President – and Britain won’t leave the EU.” How horribly wrong he was. America, the country which once hoped to “bend the arc of history towards justice” as Obama remarked, has heralded a new era of hate.
The ramifications of Trump’s election will shape the arc of history, and it is unlikely that it will tend towards justice. Muslims all around the world watch with baited breath – scared, vulnerable and powerless in the face of an election which was built on a bedrock of hate and abject Islamophobia.
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