Rising Islamophobia in the West

17 December 2015
© Al Habtoor Group

I am happy to be speaking to you tonight. With everything happening around the world, your role as the media is more important than ever. We are living in extraordinary times when we do not know our friends from our enemies.

Over the past few years, the world has witnessed major change. We have seen an increase in terrorism by extremists who are falsely using Islam as a cover. They are not Muslims! Sadly, no place on earth is safe from their actions, and this has caused the biggest cross-cultural divide in living memory.

We have gone back to the Middle Ages. Why? We are in the 21st century where tolerance and respect of others’ religions are a given. I do not know how we are going to get ourselves out of this dangerous situation. We are living in fear of our neighbours based on their religion and the colour of their skin. This is the sad truth!

Unfortunately, the media is not helping matters. It is fuelling the fire and widening the gap between the East and West, not to mention politicians who are supposed to look after their people. Instead they are causing hatred and encouraging cultural segregation.

Donald Trump’s calls for banning Muslims from entering America are shocking. He wants to create a database to keep track of any Muslim in the United States, and has called for surveillance of mosques.

Why are Muslims considered criminals because of their beliefs? Cats and dogs can enter the US freely, but not Muslims.

And of course, the Western media is capitalizing on it. I was asked to give the Muslim view on Trump’s statements as no one else was speaking out. Religion should not even come to it. Islam does not need defending. But someone had to counter Trump’s disgraceful talk.

I wonder: is Trump simply ignorant or racist? I think he is both. And with people like Trump, the media has to act responsibly and write what is true. The media should be emphasizing the point that Islam is a peaceful religion. Maybe that is too boring for the audience who prefer headlines full of scandal and slander. But that is the truth!

The US media initially dismissed Trump as a one-minute wonder. But still gave him more air time while ignoring the real news.

The world’s 1.7 billion Muslims are under attack by an individual aiming to be the so-called Leader of the Free World. I believe the American people are smarter than electing Donald Trump as their next leader, and I hope I am not proven wrong. I cannot imagine a world where Donald Trump is President of the United States of America. But if he is, I am sure he would do everything within his power to ban Muslim visitors from entering his country. When I heard what Donald Trump said, I believed he would be out of the presidential race. How wrong was I? There is a clear and present danger that he could actually make it to the White House.

Even after what he said, he is still ahead in the US polls, steaming away with 35 per cent of the Republican vote. It seems the more vulgar and offensive he is, the more the American voters love him. This shows that fear of Islam is dangerously on the rise.

This man – who could be democratically elected – is not only attacking Islam, he is attacking the Hispanics, the African Americans and others. He is isolating everyone!

Through politics, and the media, Trump has successfully exploited people’s fear of “The Other” with racism and bigotry being his tools of trade. Non-Muslims around the world are disgusted and they are speaking out. Various media commentators and news organizations have also done the right thing, calling Trump’s provocative comments racist – and acknowledging that his policies are fuelled by racism.

But where is the defence from the Muslim world? I am shocked by the disturbing silence from the Muslim and Arab leaders and the business world. What is happening to us? We Muslims are the target. Our faith is under attack, but we are behaving like lambs to the slaughter.

Financial gain and politics aside, how can anyone of good conscience continue to do business with this person or his companies when Trump the man and Trump the brand are the same thing?

In any case, imagining that America can be kept safe by shutting out Muslims is wrong, and who can blame Muslims for thinking “if you do not want us, then you do not deserve our money”.

Trump must remember that Muslim nations around the world are heavily invested in the United States. He promises to “Make America great again,” but in fact he is gravely endangering his nation’s economy with his vulgar and highly offensive talk. His policies are based on hot air, and he is attacking our great faith.

I would like to strongly urge anyone doing business with Donald Trump or any of his affiliated companies to stop. I urge the media to focus on what is important, and report facts. You have an incredible power in your hands. Do not fall prey to the game of politics.

Several years ago I launched a Foundation in my name, The Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Foundation. Its mission is to promote East–West dialogue, and build respect and understanding between cultures. Sadly, this task is becoming more challenging by the day because of the stupidity of people like Donald Trump who do not make things any easier. He is spreading poison and hate. It is people like Trump who are not allowing people to live in peace and harmony. I will continue to do everything in my power to break down the walls he is putting up.

In addition, I am planning a Round Table Event with people like me from around the world. It will focus on alleviating global poverty, one of the biggest threats to our planet. This is what we should be focusing on, not wasting valuable time on Donald Trump. We need to work on a realistic solution to help the poor. Our focus should be on saving humanity irrelevant of colour, race or religion.

It is not just Donald Trump who is abusing the media, creating fear and encouraging hatred of Muslims. There are others, which brings me to another article I wrote about Morten Storm who co-wrote a book about his life as a double agent for the CIA and Al Qaeda, and claims to have been a Muslim.

I was disappointed that Fox News recently invited him to comment in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. What an insult. A terrorist, claiming to be a Muslim, speaking on our behalf. He is a traitor, a liar and has blood on his hands.

Fox News should never have given him any air time. Storm has no moral standards and he is definitely not an authority on Islam. If Fox News wanted to learn about Islam, they should have invited a real Muslim, someone who knows and practices the faith.

The media has a responsibility to report the truth, and not show a fabricated version of a story to get mere ratings. Terrorists and racists should not be given a platform to air their views.

In our fragile world, media power should be used for good. To bring people together, to stamp out racism and hatred. A platform for peace and tolerance.

Thank you.

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