Twitter should not be used as a magnet for bigots 

Twitter should not be used as a magnet for bigots 

Sri Lankan officials inspect St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of Colombo, after multiple explosions targeting churches and hotels on April 21. (Getty Images)

Just as I was beginning to admire Donald Trump, the President of the United States, for building one of the healthiest US economies in living history and for his uncompromising stance against the planet’s biggest sponsor of terrorism, Iran, he has gone down several notches in my estimation for promoting hate speech that pits the American people against Islam. Trump has been criticized in the past for retweeting Alex Jones’ mad conspiracy theories and lifting content from white supremacist websites, but in my view his latest misstep is one step too far.

To my great surprise and disappointment, he has chosen to retweet a video recording headed “The ‘elite’ proclaim America must submit to Islam or else.” The video features an excerpt of a televised interview with a black-garbed Shiite cleric, who is certainly no holy man or representative of the Islamic faith, which is founded on peace and tolerance.

The interviewee sounds like a clone of terrorist losers like Al-Qaeda’s Ayman Al-Zawahiri or Daesh’s Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and does not deserve airtime, let alone be given prominence courtesy of the “Leader of the Free World.” I do not know who he is, but clearly his message is poisonous, playing right into the hands of the Islamophobes among Trump’s base.

“And we conquer America and we win over this tyrant. And we tell the American people give me jizya (a tax). We tell them ‘pay the jizya’ and, if they refuse, we will kill them, take their women and smash their churches,” he spouts, ending with, “Let the whole world listen, this is Islam.”

No, it is not Islam. Those sentiments are the antithesis of Islam. This fool purporting to be a man of God has not only distorted the message delivered in the Holy Qur’an, he is also inciting the weak-minded to kill Christians. He should be arrested or locked up in a mental institution.

The world is full of angry crazies these days. The white supremacist who killed Muslim worshippers in Christchurch and those who opened fire on Jews at prayer in Pittsburgh and California are the other side of the same dirty coin as the terrorists who bombed churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.

They are addle-brained nobodies trying to elevate their profiles on innocent blood. Those terrible incidents in New Zealand and the US only served to bring diverse communities together in grief, and all my praise goes to New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the gentle way she comforted mourners and brought people of all faiths together.

What upsets me is Trump’s tweet, which has elicited so many bigoted and racist responses. One, from someone with the moniker “Fellow Patriot,” wrote: “This ain’t going nowhere unless they get our guns… and that ain’t happening either.” It is a shame Trump has not taken a leaf out of Ardern’s book. She nurtured a climate of empathy and forgiveness. The US president fuels the opposite.

The white supremacist who killed Muslim worshippers in Christchurch and those who opened fire on Jews at prayer in Pittsburgh and California are the other side of the same dirty coin as the terrorists who bombed churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.

Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor

I am concerned that the unhinged could take the nonsensical threats of this “cleric” seriously enough to attack Muslims. It would be different if the president had added his own commentary, ridiculing the man giving a bad name to the planet’s 1.8 billion Muslims. The fact that he did not appears to indicate that he takes this lunatic’s words at face value. I hope I am wrong.

I would remind Mr. Trump that almost all predominately Muslim countries have open doors to Christians and people of all other beliefs, and permit them to practice their beliefs freely. There are approximately 40 churches of all denominations in my homeland, the UAE, and there are many in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis made a historic visit to the UAE for the purpose of holding a Mass. He was welcomed with open arms not only by Catholics but also UAE leaders and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the most important religious voice in the Sunni Muslim world.

In Egypt’s new administrative capital stands the largest cathedral in the Middle East, in close vicinity to the new Al-Fattah Al-Alim Mosque, which is one of the largest in the world. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has become the first to visit a Coptic cathedral during Easter Mass. He constantly calls for tolerance, peaceful coexistence and the reformation of religious discourse.

I would also remind Mr. Trump that Islam considers Christians and Jews as People of the Book, followers of monotheistic faiths pre-dating Islam, and they are afforded due respect. A great example of this is the visit of the Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattab to Jerusalem in the year 637, when he accepted the city’s surrender after 500 years of Roman oppression. The Caliph permitted Jews to live within the city’s walls and, when he was invited to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during prayer time, he declined purely because he feared Muslims might try to convert the church into a mosque.

You say you are a Christian, Mr. Trump. Some prominent evangelicals, among them your own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, believe you were sent by God. Open your Bible to Matthew 5:9. There you will read the words of Jesus, who said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” My region needs peace. Our world needs peacemakers. The growing scourge of bigotry and racism must be stopped before the coffin-makers get rich. If you care about your legacy, work to bring Muslims, Jews and Christians together and please refrain from retweeting videos of religious charlatans trying to drive us apart.

  • Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is renowned for his views on international political affairs, his philanthropic activity, and his efforts to promote peace. He has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Twitter: @KhalafAlHabtoor
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