Sometimes it is best to ignore bad things. A buffoon businessman, who makes silly remarks to enhance his (and yes it almost always a ‘his’) public profile. They exist everywhere. But we are right to be concerned when the buffoon decides to run for the nomination to be a candidate for President of the United States of America. And concern must shift into alarm when he decides to incite religious hatred and propose a discriminatory policy that is the anathema of the values upon which the USA is based. To advocate for an embargo on all Muslims entering the country is analogous to the kind of thing that a silly little Austrian man was banging on about in the 1920s – and many laughed at him then.
I don’t think anyone reading this commentary will be a Donald Trump supporter – so we might feel this is all obvious – best to go back to ignoring the clown. But I propose that his comments of last night have crossed the Rubicon. And more important, it is of all our responsibility to act, even if we are not Americans.
It is unlikely he will be selected as the Republican Presidential candidate but the impact of his remarks will outlive his presidential ambitions. The joker’s legacy will have been to legitimize religious hatred in the eyes of the world – one of the richest men in America, a TV star, part of the establishment. As with Marine Le Pen in France, “Daesh” (also known as ISIS or “Islamic State”) will be delighted – extremists feed off each other. Trump is not genocidal, but he is violating the norms of international law: the very discrimination that the US opposed in apartheid South Africa, Northern Ireland or during the country’s own Civil Rights movement. Has Trump never heard of Muhammad Ali (voted “Sportsman of the Century” by the millions of average Americans who read Sports Illustrated)?
So Trump has become not just America’s problem, he is now a problem for the whole world. We might never ever know the first victim of his rhetoric – the frontline of hatred against Muslims is often hidden from the cameras, it might be dark night at a Hungarian border crossing, a fishing village in Myanmar or in the woods of Republika Srpska. But Trump will have delighted Muslim-haters everywhere. The trial of the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Brevik reminds us all that we don’t have to be Muslim for our children to feel the wrath of Muslim-haters. Trump is another face of the new fascism that stains our world. If Trump was a devout Muslim instead of being a devout Christian, which he claims he is, Muslims would be asked everywhere to distance themselves from him. We do not ask Christians to apologise for Trump – and rightly so – but we should not ask Muslims to apologise for extremists that claim to follow their faith.
Any finally, although we might not live in the USA, it doesn’t mean that we cannot take a stand. Trump is a very rich man, and he loves his sports. He loves to buy sport and to associate with his peers. At a time when we are looking at how best to clean up Mega-Sporting Events, lets also make sure we are not tainted by the islamophobe. For those who love their golf, do not play at a Trump owned golf course, be it in Scotland, the Republic of Ireland or elsewhere. One of these, in Scotland, has frequently hosted the British Open Championship – so this is not an academic point. A muslim golf player at this event might feel about as welcome as Jesse Owens did in Berlin in 1936. If you are a sponsor, do not sponsor events held at these courses, do not supply the hotels, the bars and so on. If you are a golf fan, do not attend.
Trump has the right to play his hand in American politics – even if his campaign is now morally bankrupt. But business and sport are different. Not everyone has the right to own a business or a sports club – it requires a certain level of responsibility and due diligence. Trump the politician cares nothing of ethics, but ethics should be concerned about Trump the businessman. I note that one of the websites of a Trump owned Scottish golf course lists Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Rod Stewart and Jack Nicholson amongst the famous visitors. I suggest they might like to think again before visiting again and perhaps to have their names removed.
Sport is for all, even if the USA is not (according to some).