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Trump can't simply delete a dangerous campaign

Attacking your opponent is one thing during the campaign, but attacking entire groups has far-reaching effects that do not get ‘deleted’ so quickly.

Victoria Jones PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved. Anti-racism protestors take part in a demonstration denouncing Donald Trump outside the US embassy in London, after he was elected as US President. Victoria Jones PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.

On November 9, 2016, Trump’s campaign removed, only to be later reinstated, the section on his page where he speaks about the “Muslim ban.” Some people took this as evidence that all is well, and that his dangerous campaign rhetoric was a thing of the past and could be designated as just harmless election talk.

The main point for many commentators, myself included, is the damage he has done in normalizing a certain type of discourse that has led and will continue to lead to hate crimes being committed against individuals who belong to, or are seen to belong to, certain groups. I had referred to this issue in a previous article drawing upon a study on Islamophobia and hate crimes conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

Unfortunately, The Independent reported that “Donald Trump’s victory [was] followed by wave of hate crime attacks against minorities across US - led by his supporters.” This is similar to what the UK witnessed after the June 23, 2016 Brexit vote, as a UK Home Office report mentioned:

“There was a sharp increase in the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences recorded by the police following the EU Referendum. The number of racially or religiously aggravated offences recorded by the police in July 2016 was 41% higher than in July 2015.”

The US is set to face a similar wave, according to some reports:

Minority communities, many of which have been directly targeted by Trump and his supporters during the campaign, are having difficult, scary conversations on Wednesday morning about how to cope—or simply survive—in Donald Trump’s America. Many Muslim women who wear a hijab are debating whether to continue doing so in public...

For this reason, comments made by some world leaders and politicians are very important in making sure that Mr Trump is encouraged to change his discriminatory and dangerous rhetoric that has characterised his campaign.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Trump but said that she will work with the president-elect “if he offers ‘respect for human beings, independently of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views.’”

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon similarly referred to Trump’s divisive campaign saying: “I hope the president-elect will take the opportunity to reach out to those who felt marginalized by his campaign and make clear - in deeds as well as words - that he will be a president for everyone in modern, multicultural America.”

Sturgeon later had a more explicit stance on Trump when she said (see video below):

“I never want to be, I am not prepared to be, a politician that maintains a diplomatic silence in the face of attitudes of racism, sexism, misogyny or intolerance of any kind.
I think it is important today that, firstly, I hope that president-elect Trump turns out to be a president very different to the kind of candidate he was and reaches out to those who felt vilified by his campaign, but people of progressive opinion the world over, I think, do have to stand up for the values of tolerance and respect for diversity and difference.
There is more of an obligation on us now than there perhaps has been on our generation before and this is the time for all of us, no matter how difficult, no matter how controversial or unpopular it may be in certain quarters, to be beacons of hope for those values we all hold so dear.”

Another Scottish politician, Labour leader Kezia Dugdale commented on Trump’s victory as it relates specifically to women and people with disabilities saying:

“Donald Trump’s behaviour towards women sends a dangerous signal across the world. In January we will have a misogynist in the White House who has boasted about assaulting women and has used the most degrading language possible. And, of course, Donald Trump’s tolerance is not just aimed at women - we all remember the sickening sight of him mocking a disabled journalist. We can’t forget his plans to build a wall or ban people of one faith from entering America.’”

The point here is simple: attacking your opponent is one thing during the campaign, but attacking entire groups has far-reaching effects that do not get ‘deleted’ after the end of an electoral campaign.

As Sturgeon said, “I hope that President-elect Trump turns out to be a president very different to the kind of candidate he was and reaches out to those who felt vilified by his campaign... [but people of progressive opinion] do have to stand up for the values of tolerance and respect for diversity and difference.”

This piece was first published on The Huffington Post on 11 November 2016.

About the author

Halim Shebaya is a Beirut-based analyst and researcher. He teaches in the School of Arts and Sciences at the Lebanese American University and has worked on social and political affairs for a number of local and international organisations. His articles have appeared in the World Post, Huffington Post, Al-Jazeera English, Jadaliyya, Legal Agenda, Annahar, Assafir, and Al Akhbar. He holds an M.Div. in Theology (NEST), M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies (SOAS), and an L.L.M. in Public International Law (Nottingham). Find him on Twitter @halimshebaya


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