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Usefulness of Trump

Javaid Iqbal Bhat
If Donald Trump had been a poem, its title would have been “Get the Hell out of Here.” The new US President has unsettled opinion makers with his braggart conduct. A new raucous chorus has started. And the refrain of this chorus is “Donald Trump, Donald Trump and Donald Trump.” Even his own party men feel surprised that he is actually implementing what he said in the run-up to the election. He has removed filters of political correctness in his speeches and statements, even after making it to the White House. The joke industry around his hair and his style of putting signatures may have flourished, but he is unmindful of it all, and like a force of nature, eroding the constructions of tradition and diplomatic custom, moving forward with his iconoclastic foreign policy. He has set up new benchmarks with the grandiose “America First” words. In this America First slogan, unfortunately, Muslims come last and Islam is a word that is best kept out of the borders of his country, or with folded hands at the Atlantic coast, at least not anywhere close to the White House. One can only imagine the psychological state of Muslims living in the USA. I assume many Hijabs might have come off by this time, and many beards trimmed to approval-size. Their state might be that of the Communists during the McCarthiyan era. However, is it really a bad time for the Muslims and Islam? One might be urged to affirm yes, but there is perhaps a silver lining. Some people in the Muslim world have actually supported the ban by Trump on travellers from seven Muslim countries. Their reasons for support for the move may be motivated by business consideration or other geostrategicgrounds. They believe that these seven countries have basic structural problems which are creating citizens who have a flawed view of the world; that their outlook is out of tune with the demands and requirements of the twenty-first century. They may not acknowledge it in public, but the truth is that ever since Iraq was invaded, things are out of shape in the Middle-East. The “structural problems” came from the ruins of Baghdad. They came from the selfish support by successive US governments to undemocratic regimes in the Middle East. The support to dictatorship and discouragement of the sentiments of the Arab street led to structural deficiencies in the West Asia. Whether the ban is justified or not is a matter of academic discussion. The fact of the matter is that there is now a ban for some time on Muslims. The question now is of negotiating with this ban. Does it have to be used by radical groups for further radicalisation or does it have to be met with calm and understanding as befits a great and mature civilisational paradigm that is Islam which has withstood greater crises in the past? There is no dearth of men and women in the larger Muslim world who will see this ban as an occasion to mobilise people against the USA. One is aware of that, as it will become a staple for Friday sermons. However, there is another way of looking at the anti-Muslim swing in the US foreign policy. First of all, bans are historically counterproductive and which often have sparked creative responses from mature cultures. There was a time when Jews were banned from coming out of their “diasporas” in Europe or what later came to be known as ghettos, for the most part of the twenty-four hours of a day. And they could visit only specific parts of a city for specific purposes. However, these bans only produced what Frantz Fanon calls “ determination from within” among the Jews to meet the challenges of life and world. Though the ban today is not of the same breadth and intensity yet there is no harm but all benefit in coming up with a determination from within to circumvent the anxieties of this age. It would have been good if Iran instead of reciprocating the ban on American citizens had actually encouraged more Americans to visit the country. Unfortunately, these days the Reverends of ummah are not known for such things. Most beards are busy with bombast. Second, the hate of Trump can be used to ramp up support for reform within the Muslim countries. He is a likea godsend for aspirations of change in societies where laws seem to have to be written in stone. He provides the justification for bringing about some long-demanded transformations. His virulent presence can be used to turn the heavy-set page in the Muslim world. His virulence is at its peak now, and the opportunity in the Muslim world is greatest, to convince the conservative constituency of the need for reform. The reform can be made in the laws which were made under some Iron Mullahs. Like, for example, in Pakistan. Even if someone speaks of removing a clause or a sentence from the laws made under Zia ulHaq, the orthodox veterans raise hell against reformers. They have turned human-made decrees into iron-clad commandments which can never be touched let alone changed. The resistance to change is so intense that even powerful people in Pakistan cannot speak publicly against some laws which have stifled all open expression and argument. The misuse of those laws is widespread. The label of blasphemy is easily hurled at political opponents and death penalties handed down for flimsy reasons. The Trump’s onslaught on Muslims world can be used both an opportunity as well as an agent which will force the withdrawal of Muslims into deeper cocoons. The former is better and is possible if Trump is converted into an opportunity and seen as a blessing in disguise, for the cause of internal reform. There is a lot to gain even in the most challenging time provided, as Plato said in different context, the reins of wisdom control the horse of emotions.

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