The bombast delivered daily by US Presidential candidate Donald Trump, particularly against Muslims, will have Muslims the world over asking why they should buy American.
The American real estate mogul’s views will be extremely damaging to vital US economic and strategic alliances. From western China to the Bosporus and Bosnia, almost all people are at least nominal Muslims. US business leaders overseas must speak up loudly against Trump to protect US business interests.
As a westerner long based in Asia, I am astonished at the silence – so far as I am aware – of US corporate interests overseas, collectively and individually, in the face of Trump’s remarks about Muslims.
There is a very simple issue here. The very suggestion that Muslims should be barred from entering the United States can only cause Muslims worldwide to ask themselves: Why should we buy goods and services from a nation which so despises us? Why should we welcome Americans whether as investors, tourists or traders if we are to be thus treated?
It is not good enough for the US business community to shrug its shoulders and imply that Trump is full of publicity-seeking rhetoric and is making proposals that can never come to pass. It is not good enough to laugh off Trump’s statements as of scant relevance, political theater at the early stage of the Republican selection battle, let alone the campaign for the presidency itself.
To be sure, Trump might not even win the nomination, let alone the presidency. Even if he did, he would perhaps find major hurdles, in Congress or the Supreme Court, in putting his prejudices into practice.
A global image
But what is at stake here for Americans abroad, particularly in Muslim-majority countries, is whether, through widespread silence, they are tarred with his brush.
The brutal facts are that Trump’s statements remain the major news emerging from the United States, via its media, major and minor. They are being fed through to a wider world via agencies, Fox, CNN, etc., and foreign ones such as the British Broadcasting Corporation.
It is not just that Trump currently leads the Republican field. In his wake, the other contenders are mostly playing modified versions of the same “don’t trust Muslims” game. The United States, according to Pew Research, now has a population of close to 3 million Muslims.
Fortunately for the US reputation, media in many Muslim countries seem not to have given Trump’s remarks quite the attention they have received in the West. Most likely they either see him as similar to their own extremists, embarrassing but ultimately irrelevant.
Probably too, they choose to ignore him because their image of America is more one of opportunity, technology and an open society – not one where the forces of xenophobia and demagoguery prevail, at least at the national policy level.