US ELECTIONS

Trump plays up Islamic threat in wake of Orlando shooting

Republican candidate reiterates his promise to ban Muslims from entering the United States

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Donald Trump, the Republican presumptive nominee to the White House, said on Monday that he will ban all Muslims from entering the United States if he becomes president.

He then insinuated that President Barack Obama may be complicit in the Orlando massacre where 50 people were murdered by a lone gunman on Sunday morning. “He doesn’t get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands. It’s one or the other,” Trump said. A few years ago, the real estate mogul was among the main proponents of a conspiracy theory claiming that the president was a Muslim.

Those remarks about Obama, expressed in an interview on Fox News, were sufficiently understated to allow Trump to distance himself from them later on. He told NBC that many people think the president does not want to understand terrorism. “I happen to think he just doesn’t know what he’s doing, but there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it, he doesn’t want to see what’s really happening.”

The Republican presidential hopeful was among the so-called birthers, a group that claimed Obama was not born on US soil and demanded that he publish his birth certificate for verification

According to a 2015 survey, 43% of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim. Trump knows he is speaking to those voters. The Republican presidential hopeful was among the so-called birthers, a group that claimed Obama was not born on US soil and demanded that he publish his birth certificate for verification. That campaign, steeped in racism, questioned the loyalty of the first black commander-in-chief of the United States and made Trump a prominent figure among the ranks of the paranoid right-wing.

The reality television star-turned-politician did not even wait a day after the Orlando shooting, the worst mass killing in US history and the worst terrorist attack on US soil since September 11, 2001, before using it in his campaign. He rewrote a speech he planned to give in New Hampshire about Clinton’s past scandals to focus instead on immigration and terrorism, two issues he believes are related because terrorists, he says, enter the United States as immigrants and refugees.

During the speech, Trump said the law allows the US government to deny entry to any group it deems a threat to US interests. “I will use this power to protect the American people. When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.”

He failed to mention that Omar Mateen, the Orlando gunman, was born in the United States and was a US citizen. In short, Trump’s ban on Muslim immigrants would not have prevented the massacre. Still, the New York businessman smugly congratulated himself on Sunday because, he says, the shooting proved his point about Islam. He demanded that Obama resign and that Clinton abandon the presidential race for her refusal to use the term “radical Islam.”

Trump told the crowd in New Hampshire that Clinton wants to allow radicals “who enslave women and murder gays” to enter the United States, and that the American Muslim community knows who the criminals are but do not want to turn them in. He compared refugees and immigrants to the Orlando shooter, saying: “We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought processes as this savage killer.” Clinton’s proposals on immigration “could be a better, bigger version of the legendary Trojan Horse,” he added.

The White House has refrained from using the phrase “radical Islam” arguing that this kind of language plays into the terrorists’ hands by allowing them to identify themselves with a religion. The United States wants to avoid turning the fight against the so-called Islamic State into a war between religions or cultures. Still, according to Trump, and most Republicans agree with him, not calling a spade a spade is falling prey to the dictatorship of political correctness. If you do not identify the enemy, you cannot defeat it, they say.

“Today is not a day for politics,” Clinton said on Monday in a speech in Cleveland, Ohio. The former secretary of state explained her plans to combat terrorism and prevent tragedies like the Orlando shooting. In keeping with Obama’s strategy, she wants to bomb ISIS targets, work in concert with allies and strengthen restrictions on the purchase of assault weapons like the one used by Mateen. Her speech was pragmatic rather than a call to arms. Clinton is cautious where Trump is brash.

“Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump told Fox News in an interview on Monday morning. "And the something else in mind — you know, people can’t believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.”

During an election campaign, every crisis becomes fodder for the propaganda machine, but few candidates have used them as boldly and quickly as Donald Trump. He clinched the Republican nomination a month ago, a triumph some thought would inspire him to quell his incendiary remarks. But he has not changed. His allure resides precisely in the fact that he says what his voters think but do not dare utter out loud. Orlando did not change Trump. Trump is still Trump.

English version by Dyane Jean-François

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