On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

IS no friend to Muslims

Bangladeshi and Yemeni Americans join supporters to protest against Islamic State and political and religious extremism during a rally in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, Michigan December 11, 2015. -  REUTERS

Bangladeshi and Yemeni Americans join supporters to protest against Islamic State and political and religious extremism during a rally in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, Michigan December 11, 2015. – REUTERS

DONALD Trump is a serious mental case. It will not be wrong to label the front-runner Republican presidential hopeful as an extremist.

He is no different from the other religious extremists, whether Muslim, Hindu or Christian, who use religion, fear and ignorance to pursue their political ambitions.

His call to ban Muslims from entering the United States of America is the most outrageous suggestion I have ever heard.

It is one thing to be racist but how on earth is the United States – should Trump, God forbid, become the president – going to enforce such a ruling?

Since religion is not stated on the passport, is he going to ban travellers on the basis of their Arab sounding names? Trump would be surprised to know that most West Asians have similar sounding names, even if they are not Muslims.

Or he is going to identify the Muslims by the way they are dressed, with their headgear and robes, or simply because they keep a beard or goatee?

It may be news to him but many Arab Christians do wear traditional garbs. They cover up themselves for simple practical reasons – to protect themselves from the sand in the desert as well as to follow the dictates of a conservative society.

I have travelled extensively to Arab countries and even to Jerusalem and as such, I am able to share some educated opinion from my observations and conversations with the people.

And let’s not even talk about Muslims from other parts of the world who do not fit into the typical Muslim image of the West. China has an estimated Muslim population of more than 20 million and the US immigration will surely have a headache if even a fraction of them decide to go to the US for a holiday.

And what about the Western-educated, English-speaking Muslims, who can easily fit into US society?

Last week, Trump became a global news item when he called for the barring of all Muslims from entering the United States.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” a campaign press release said.

Trump, who has previously called for surveillance on mosques and reportedly said he was open to establishing a database for all Muslims living in the US, made his latest controversial call in a news release.

His message comes in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, by suspected IS sympathisers and the day after President Barack Obama asked the country not to “turn against one another out of fear”.

The problem with the likes of extremist politicians like Trump is that each time the IS terrorists carry out a brutal campaign, such remarks are a form of oxygen to these people. It is the kind of reaction that they are looking for, which gives their campaign a far wider reach than they could hope from a localised attack.

The coordinated Paris attacks in Novem­ber involving three suicide bombers saw 130 people killed and 368 others injured. IS has claimed responsibility.

The attacks, which saw seven attackers killed, have been described as the deadliest on France since World War Two. In January, also in Paris, 17 people were killed in an attack by terrorist groups.

The saddest part of these IS attacks is that they give rise to Islamophobia, which leads to anger and suspicions against innocent Muslims.

It also provides right-wing politicians a fresh voice to pursue their campaigns while moderates find themselves losing their appeal as the latter would be perceived as being too ready to compromise and accommodate.

Individuals in Europe who have been sympathetic to the refugees have suddenly found that their citizens want the borders closed and that the refugees are no longer welcomed.

This may be something that IS wants. An analyst in the Wall Street Journal said IS’s objective is clear: to try to bait Western societies into an indiscriminate backlash against millions of Muslims living in Europe and the US. It is a backlash that, if successfully provoked, would disrupt these Muslims’ bonds with their countries of citizenship and residence and – as is it happened with Iraq’s Sunnis – validate the Islamic State’s claim to be their only protector.

“IS thrives on polarisation,” Hassan Hassan, an expert on the group at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, was quoted as saying.

“They want people to say they hate us, and so we hate them. This is the foundation of their success.”

If Trump’s call has gained traction, in France, the far-right National Front has reportedly received a major boost following the Paris attack, becoming the country’s ­largest party in regional elections. Reports have said that it is no longer beyond the realm of possibility that the Front’s leader, Marine Le Pen, may become president in 2017. Some opinion polls have placed her ahead of the incumbent.

The emergence of such rightist leaders in Europe against equally Islamist groups in West Asian and other Muslim countries can only spell trouble for the world.

If the IS succeeds in carrying out more attacks in the West in the coming months, something that terrorism experts and counter-terrorism officials say is a near-certainty, such polarisation is only likely to intensify, the report pointed out.

Extremist Western groups and individuals will become more popular while the moderates will find themselves discredited, and that will be sad for the world.

The voices of reason and compromise will be drowned out if Western countries conti­nue to be targeted by IS.

The saddest victims will also include Muslims who have assimilated into these Western countries and have accepted the Western way of life.

IS does not help Islam and Muslims one single bit.