U.N. Genocide Watchdog Suggests Trump, American Hardliners Fueling Hatred of Muslims
In a veiled swipe at Donald Trump, the U.N. special advisor on genocide accuses American politicians and pastors of feeding discrimination of Muslims.
The U.N.’s top genocide expert waded into the toxic American debate on the massacres of 49 people at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida, and issued a thinly veiled swipe at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Christian extremists for exploiting the tragedy to fuel anti-Muslim hatred.
“At a time when there was greatest need for sympathy and solidarity, I was appalled by the immediate and shameful efforts of some political and religious leaders to manipulate and politicize the events in Orlando to fuel fear, intolerance, and hatred,” Adama Dieng, the U.N. special advisor to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the prevention of genocide, said Friday in a statement.
Dieng stopped short of calling out Trump by name. But he criticized calls by “some politicians to cite radical Islam as the cause of the attack in Orlando, to ban Muslims from the United States, and to label all Muslims as terrorists.”
While Trump hasn’t labeled all Muslims terrorists, he has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants entering the United States. More recently he blasted President Barack Obama for refusing to use the term “radical Islam” in describing shooter Omar Mateen’s motive for the Orlando killings.
Obama has long avoided characterizing attacks by individuals inspired or acting on behalf of the Islamic State or al Qaeda as “radical Islam” because he believes it would unfairly tarnish one of the world’s most important religions and undermine international support for the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIL.
“What exactly would using this label accomplish?” Obama said this week. “What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is, none of the above.”
But Trump and other Republican figures, including Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, have cited the Democratic president’s refusal to utter the phrase as a sign of weakness and capitulation to political correctness.
“With all due respect, Mr. President, you’re wrong,” Sasse said in a statement issued Tuesday. “It is the the commander in chief’s duty to actually identify our enemies and to help the American people understand the challenge of violent Islam.”
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee, had initially resisted pressure from Trump and others to label the ideologies that motivate followers of the Islamic State and al Qaeda to carry out terror attacks as Islamic radicalism. It “sounds like we are declaring war against a religion,” she told CBS in December. But she said after the Orlando shootings that she would be “happy” to use the phrase “radical Islamism.”
“To me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing,” Clinton said Monday on NBC’s Today show. “I’m happy to say either. But that’s not the point.”
Trump quickly turned to Twitter to seize credit for compelling Clinton to reverse course.
Dieng also took aim at Arizona pastor Steven Anderson of the so-called Faithful Word Baptist Church, who recorded a YouTube sermon welcoming the killings of the 49 victims in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. “The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world,” the Tempe-based pastor said.
Dieng said he was “sickened to hear religious leaders commend the killings of members of the LGBT community,” referring to Anderson’s remarks.
“Religious and sexual minorities are subjected to discrimination, human rights violations, and violence worldwide, including in peaceful and democratic societies,” Dieng said. “However, they are most vulnerable during difficult times.”
“It is simply unacceptable that influential leaders, including political and religious leaders, spread the kind of dangerous homophobic and Islamophobic messages that we have seen in public discourse and the media this week,” he said.
Dieng also warned that “any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence is prohibited under international human rights law as well as by the legislations of many countries.” He urged political and religious leaders to “publicly counter lies, prejudice, and fear, to act responsibly and with respect for both international and national laws.”
Photo credit: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images
Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch