JAKARTA: “I’m very afraid, will there be more wars? Will America attack Muslim countries again?” asked Indonesian activist Alijah Diete as Donald Trump edged closer to a shock victory in the US election.
Muslims across Asia were struggling Wednesday to accept the news that the populist politician who has made fiery anti-Islamic rhetoric a key part of his campaign was likely to become president of the world’s greatest power.
He made his most controversial remarks about Islam in December last year, sparking anger among the world’s 1.5 billion followers of Islam when he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States after a mass shooting in California.
“Americans have just screwed the world yet again,” said Syed Tashfin Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi who has several close friends in the US. Thousands in the country watched in shock as the results rolled in and Facebook lit up with horrified reactions.
A senior Pakistani government official, speaking anonymously, called the news “absolutely atrocious and horrifying” while others in the country also lamented the results.
“I am disappointed to see Donald Trump winning because Hillary Clinton is a good woman, she is good for Pakistan and Muslims all over the world,” said Ishaq Khan, 32, speaking at an Islamabad market.
“She was talking about world peace — but Trump was talking about fighting against Muslims.”
‘Muslims are foreigners to him’
In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, there was growing nervousness about how the relationship with traditional ally the United States would shape up, and how a Trump presidency would affect relations between America and the Muslim world.
“I am very concerned that the relationship between the US and Muslim countries will become tense again,” said the female Muslim activist Diete, 47.
Nikken Suardini, who works for a law firm in the capital Jakarta, was concerned about the proposed Muslim ban. “If he is elected president he will block Muslims from entering the US — well, that’s just not fair.”
There was also concern that tough anti-Islamic policies under Trump could fan Muslim extremism globally at a time when the world is struggling with a growing threat of Islamic militancy.
“When the United States uses hard power, extremists gain a momentum,” said Zuhairi Misrawi, an Islamic scholar from moderate Indonesian Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama.
“Those who will be the happiest when Trump wins are ISIS,” he said, referring by another name to the Islamic State group, which is struggling to hold onto its territory in Iraq and Syria in the face of a fierce military onslaught.
Some observers were more sanguine as the 70-year-old maverick appeared heading for the White House, hoping that his populist rhetoric was aimed at winning votes and would not be translated into tough xenophobic policies if he enters the White House.
“We hope that Trump’s remarks against Muslims were only to boost his campaign and he will realise that Muslims are a large population in the US,” said Tahir Ashrafi, a senior Pakistani government cleric.
Others echoed the concerns that his policies would likely discriminate against American Muslims.
“His policies against Muslims will be discriminative,” said Munarman, a spokesman for Indonesian hardline group the Islamic Defenders’ Front. “Muslims are foreigners to him.”