In Trump’s world, there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ European Muslims


Mayor Sadiq Khan on US election night, November 8, 2016, at the US Embassy in London. This work is freely licensed or in the public domain

Funny though it may sound, to Trump all British Muslim men may look and sound like Mayor Sadiq Khan even when they don’t.

So Donald Trump travelled to Britain and the following were excluded in various ways from his circle of amity: London Mayor Sadiq Khan and British Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

Khan was publicly denounced by Trump as a “loser,” a “dumb and incompetent” mayor and, in a final kick, as a shorty. Javid, who holds one of the four great offices of the British government, was reportedly kept away from the banquet for Trump at Buckingham Palace. Javid is understood to have met with Trump briefly in the course of events to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings but he didn’t get to dine in style with Trump.

The first exclusion was unsurprising. Khan has had an antagonistic social media relationship with Trump since 2016, when candidate Trump mooted a ban on Muslim entry into the United States. Khan publicly criticised the idea and rebuffed a Trump overture, which basically suggested different rules could apply to different categories of Muslims. Just days ago, Khan compared language used by Trump to rally his supporters to that of “the fascists of the 20th century.”

What did Javid do that he was excluded from the June 3 grand dinner for Trump? Javid routinely rejects allegations of Islamophobia despite evidence it is rising within his Conservative Party and the United Kingdom. He takes hard-line positions on Muslim issues.

For instance, Javid controversially stripped the London-born-and-bred schoolgirl Shamima Begum of her British citizenship for joining the Islamic State in 2015. This effectively rendered Begum stateless. Married to a Christian, Javid previously said even though his “family’s heritage is Muslim… but I do not practise any religion… the only religion practised in my house is Christianity.”

Ahead of Trump’s arrival in the United Kingdom, Javid refused to acknowledge it was a matter of concern that the United States banned the entry of nationals from several Muslim-majority countries. Instead, Javid made the following fawning comment on a widely watched British Sunday morning television show: “What I would raise with the president and his team is first of all I would welcome him to the UK.”

Javid and Khan are clearly at opposite ends of the spectrum in their public reaction to Trump’s support for far-right and Islamophobic positions. One would think that, in the echo chamber that is Trump’s world, Javid and Khan are distinct. One is a “good” Muslim, in the sense of being well-disposed towards Trump and Trumpian values.

Javid’s record shows he is mostly disinclined to challenge Trumpism, especially now, when Trump-a-like politicians are popping up in Britain and Europe.

In Trump’s world, Khan is a “bad” Muslim, speaking out against bigotry and demanding equal treatment before the law. As Khan recently put it: “President Donald Trump is just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat. The far right is on the rise around the world, threatening our hard-won rights and freedoms and the values that have defined our liberal, democratic societies for more than 70 years.”

Khan’s way of thinking and the words he uses to express himself are obviously anathema in Trump’s world. Yet, Javid, acquiescent, almost admiring of a world remade in Trump’s image, was the only senior member of the British cabinet not invited to the royal dinner party thrown for Trump.

There is some suggestion it was a precaution. A friend of Javid’s, quoted in the Daily Mail newspaper, said he had been left out for fear “the president might confuse him with the other son of a bus driver,” a reference to Khan who shares Javid’s Pakistani immigrant parentage.

Funny though it may sound, to Trump all British Muslim men may look and sound like Mayor Sadiq Khan even when they don’t.

Seriously though, there is an uncomfortable level of communally based exclusion at work in everything to do with this American president. In Trump’s world, there may be no good or bad European Muslims. They’re just Muslims — indistinguishable from each other. Interlopers all.

Originally published in The Arab Weekly