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Disaster policy?

Letters


Republican contenders for the White House manipulating voters’ fears for their own ends by threatening to shut America’s door to Muslim visitors while subjecting American-Muslims to intensive monitoring have failed to count the cost of such an immoral, bigoted policy. Current frontrunners, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, are shamefully vying with each other to attract xenophobes and Islamophobes into their respective camps in a no-holds-barred fashion.

The real shock is the result of a Bloomberg Politics/Purple strategies poll indicating 65 per cent of Republican primary voters support the idea and even more concerning, 37pc of all voters are in agreement with a ban on Muslims. Clearly, they have no clue that such an unprecedented action would shoot America in the foot in more ways than one.

Firstly, it would contravene the constitution that outlaws “religious tests”. Secondly, it would create a ‘them-and-us’ climate within the US and is guaranteed to alienate many of America’s traditional allies. Thirdly, it would serve as a gift to terrorist recruiters and America-haters. And, fourthly, it is wholly impractical when most passports do not mention its holder’s faith. It is likely, too, that some, if not most, predominately Muslim states would institute reciprocal rules whereby American citizens and corporations would be deemed unwelcome.

However, even when those negative consequences are set aside, placing such a ‘Keep Out’ sign with respect to all Muslims would, undoubtedly, have devastating consequences for America’s economy whose ripples would trigger yet another global economic downturn because, as is well known, when Washington sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. 

For a start, America’s tourism industry would suffer a major hit. A study conducted jointly by Singapore-based Crescent Ratings and the US firm Dinar Standard reports that Muslim travellers spend an average of $2,000 more than people of other faiths and forecasts taking into account growth that by 2020 the overall spend relating to Muslim tourism worldwide will reach more than $192 billion.

An article in the Telegraph, substantiated with statistics from Travel and Leisure magazine and the US National Travel and Tourism Office, suggests a ban on Muslims could cost the US more than $18.4bn a year “not accounting for the necessary overhaul to border infrastructure to implement such a plan”.

American airlines, airports, transport systems, cabs, restaurants, entertainment venues and retailers would certainly feel the pinch. Gulf nationals are also among the biggest purchasers of luxury goods. Economy Watch asserts that GCC states make up the majority of the Middle East’s travel spend and together represent 37pc of all Muslim travellers worldwide. Data from the US Department of Commerce, which does not base its statistics on religion, shows that Saudis spent $14.6bn in the US between 2005 and 2014.

American exports could also be affected simply because human nature would dictate that Muslim consumers – all 1.7bn of them – would be far less likely to purchase ‘Made in the USA’ automobiles, computers and other high-end items. US exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE alone exceed $57bn. Over 1,000 US firms have a presence in the UAE and 120 operate in Qatar. Many thousands more are based throughout the Middle East and Asia.

Would Qatar proceed with its plans to invest $35bn in the US over the coming five-year period? Would billionaire investors liquidate their assets and transfer their funds to more Muslim-friendly markets?

Would a President Trump’s ban also be applied to Muslim diplomats I wonder. In that event the embassies, consulates and educational centres of over 30 Muslim-Majority countries, numbering more than 108 diplomatic facilities around the country would be shuttered. 

More importantly, Muslim heads of state, foreign ministers and ambassadors would be unable to attend United Nations General Assembly meetings or international conferences taking place on US soil, threatening world peace as well as America’s leading role in global affairs.

Neither Trump nor Cruz has thought through the implications that banning Muslims would have on their own country in terms of potential bankruptcies and job losses not to mention the tremors that would surely rock the financial sector and stock markets, even supposing Muslim countries declined to implement retaliatory measures.

From the US perspective it would be madness especially since its loss would be others’ gain. I will bet that European financial institutions, manufacturers and businesses will be laughing all the way to the bank. 

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

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