Donald TrumpaEUR( tm) s real threat is attaining extreme racists seem moderate | Owen Jones

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The Republican presidential frontrunners call to stop Muslims from entering the US adds to mounting Islamophobia. Hes no longer a jester but a serious menace

The clown is no longer funny; the gag is now a sinister threat. Donald Trump has long been treated as a laughable absurdity, the generator of the occasional Twitter storm, a merely in America caricature who simply could not be taken seriously. Yes, polling makes him the decisive Republican frontrunner with only two months until the first primary; in Iowa one of the first states to choose he has a 13-point result.

But surely a campaign fuelled by idiocy, chauvinism and intolerance is doomed. Surely, as some speculate, he is a spoiler( consciously or otherwise) to help his friend Hillary Clinton. It would be like uber-troll Katie Hopkins becoming the Tory partys frontrunner for leader.

You can stop laughter now. Donald Trumps call for a complete shutdown of Muslims coming into the United States including US Muslims abroad matters, and not just in the United States, for three reasons.

Firstly, any complacency about anti-Muslim racism must now be discarded. Yes, in the dark days of the 1930 s, there were US demagogues like the priest Charles Coughlin who employed their own nationals radio show to provoke hatred against Jews: but even then, the Republican frontrunner didnt call for Jews to be barred from entering the US.

Secondly, his grim intervention shifts the terms of acceptable political debate. Anti-Muslim prejudice that is more sophisticated and subtle( which isnt hard) abruptly seems less extreme, and somehow instantly more palatable.

Thirdly, Trump demonstrates that Islamic State is winning. One of the demise cults strategic aims is to divide western societies from western Muslim communities: to fuel a sense among Muslims that they are repudiated, unwanted, even hated, driving them into the camp of global jihad.

Trumps commentaries do not exist in a vacuum. Anti-Muslim prejudice has been mounting across the western world ever since al-Qaidas inhumanities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania back in 2001. Polling in June found that, if presented with a well-qualified Muslim candidate for president, 38% of Americans would not vote for them. Even among more accepting younger Britons, a 2013 poll suggested that 44% believed Muslims did not have the same values as other Britons, and 28% thought the country would be better off with fewer Muslims. Another poll the same year taken in the aftermath of Lee Rigbys assassination found that 34% believed Muslims represented a serious threat to democracy. A resurgent European far-right targets Muslims, just as their precursors scapegoated Jewish people: whether it be the Front National, flourishing in Frances weekend regional polls, the Swedish Democrat, the Danish Peoples party or the Austrian Freedom party.

The Overton Window is a concept that was born in rightwing American circles. It is a simple notion: everything within the window is seen as acceptable and mainstream, and everything outside is seen as extreme and fringe, but it can be shifted. With one ignominious intervention, the window has now been moved, and various anti-Muslim bigots can say: Well Donald Trump has gone too far, but heres what I would say instead. They abruptly become the more moderate alternatives where once they would have been seen as themselves extreme. Mehdi Hasan has admitted to missing George W Bush because of the anti-Muslim transformation that has taken place within the Republican fold since.

It wasnt just what Trump told; its the fact his fans instantly cheered. This is no clown , no pitiful absurdity that can simply be chuckled off. Trump is a danger, an inciter of bigotry and a recruiting sergeant for terrorism and this must be taken seriously.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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