The ‘trauma’ of the Trump tantrum

FEBRUARY 9 ― It appears, to borrow a certain person’s misspelling, “unpresidented” in the history of the United States that the first week of coming into office President Donald Trump and his administration caused so much chaos, uproar, confusion, anger and fear not only among fellow Americans but also people the world over.

As many of us are aware, Trump’s executive order, signed on January 27, is one controversial presidential action that has indefinitely blocked entry to the US for Syrian refugees, particularly the Muslims, and temporarily suspends entry to other refugees and citizens of seven majority Muslim countries.

It is also repugnant to many the Trumpian suggestions that there ought to be a Muslim registry put in place in the US as a monitoring device, and that a wall be erected along the US-Mexican border so as to prevent illegal border crossing. 

This subsequently triggered mass protests by concerned Americans all over the US as well as demonstrations in major cities in the UK, France and elsewhere, including Kuala Lumpur recently. It also provoked legal challenges to the executive order in the US, which threw Trump into his executive tantrum.

These protests, particularly in the US, were essentially driven, and rightly so, by concerns about serious violations of human rights, justice, equality, freedom of religion as well as disdain towards bigotry, racism, xenophobia and last but not least, Islamophobia. It is also important to recognise that for many of these people, it is immoral to turn away refugees who flee from persecution and oppression in their homeland.

This is to say that the above factors, such as human rights and justice, are considered very important by many Americans so that they are committed to helping the victims of such transgressions who happen to be largely Muslim.

What’s heartening is that this dismal situation has brought out the best in humanity among many Americans, irrespective of their religious, ethnic and political backgrounds. That is why they have stood in solidarity with the minority Muslims to the point of warning the Trump administration that should the so-called Muslim registry come into force, they would gladly claim themselves to be Muslims as well.

Similar compassion and concern were expressed elsewhere in the US. Texan Americans rallied behind a tiny Muslim community whose mosque was razed to the ground soon after the Trump executive order was announced publicly. The donation drive to rebuild the mosque managed to raise so far more than US$600,000 (RM2,663,548) in a brief period of time.

The Trump tantrum has also ironically opened doors for Muslim and non-Muslims elsewhere in the world to improve inter-religious relations and understanding. In the United Kingdom, there were initiatives among its Muslim communities to further enhance communication and empathy between Muslims and others in the wake of the Trump order.

More than 150 mosques in the UK held open day events recently to provide an opportunity for non-Muslims to visit mosques and also interact with Muslims in a cordial fashion. Indeed, mosques have a vital part to play as a centre for community activities apart from its religious role.

The positive reactions of many people (with the exclusion of the alt-right) in the aftermath of the Trump executive order largely point to the fact that these people, particularly the Americans, embrace and celebrate diversity in life, be it in the form of people or viewpoints.

In fact, as expressed by many ordinary as well as political leaders in the US, diversity is an asset to the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious America. The highly celebrated Silicon Valley in California is cited as an American example of a success story where sons and daughters of immigrants played, and still play, a major role.

One can’t imagine the colossal loss to the US should there be a big brain drain as a result of this executive order. We Malaysians should know.

Here I am reminded once again of a beautiful verse (Surah Al-Hujurat, 49:13) from the Quran that celebrates diversity and constitutes the Divine Design: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”

We hope that these noble values, held highly by Americans in general, are not lost on those protesters, particularly the Malay-Muslim, who participated in the recent demonstration in Kuala Lumpur against the Trump ban as well as other Malaysians who share similar sentiment.

For it is crucial to bear in mind that such protest is not only about displaying our displeasure against Trump’s Islamophobia, but equally important are the values of justice, compassion, democracy, and freedom of religion.

The appreciation of these values and their application in the case of the victims of the Trump ban, which in this case are Muslim, would then help us to value the importance of defending the rights and dignity of minorities in any society, including and especially ours.

It is therefore hoped that if and when a group of Muslims tries, say, to physically bring down a cross from a church in town, it is expected that right-thinking and morally upright Muslims would rally around the affected Christians to stem the tide of extremism and bigotry. At the very least, this action would prevent the ugly impression of Muslims whose faith appear to have been easily shaken by the sight of the cross.

Similarly, Malaysians must come to the rescue of the Orang Asli when their ancestral land has been violated by predatory loggers. Not to do so would be abandoning the vital values of compassion, justice and solidarity (which are enjoined by Islamic teachings and those of other faiths) and morally wrong as the collective interests and concerns of marginal and minority groups, such as the Orang Asli, are jeopardised.

What is equally at stake here is the dignity of the Orang Asli ― like that of the refugees who had fled to the US ― as fellow human beings and divine creations.

Our standard of morality may be best judged against our treatment of people outside of our own ethnic and religious community as well as social class.

Surely the morality of human beings goes beyond merely, for instance, ascertaining whether  the pillion rider on a motorcycle is a mahram (such as father, brother or son) or the physical distance between the pillion rider and the motorcyclist who are of the opposite sex and don’t fall under the mahram category.

(Note: In Islam, the category of mahram refers to all those males whom a woman cannot marry at any time in her life whatsoever. For example, a father, brother or son.)

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.