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At a rally in Houston held by Indian-American NGOs for the visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Donald Trump paid a visit, undoubtedly to garner votes for the upcoming 2020 presidential elections.

Addressing to a crowd estimated at 50,000, almost all who were exclusively Indian Americans, President Trump started by saying that he was a ‘big fan of Hindu and a big fan of India. Big, big fan. Big, big fan.’ He went on to declare that ‘When I’m elected president, India will have a friend in the White House.’

Responding to the rousing cheers from an appreciative audience, Trump continued with ‘Under the Trump administration we will become best friends. And we will defeat radical Islamic terrorism!’ That remark immediately brought the largely Hindu audience to their feet roaring with pleasure. The Indian prime minister also stood up beaming broadly, nodding his head and wildly applauding the US president’s remarks.

“Today we honour all of the brave American and Indian military service members who work together to safeguard our freedom,” Trump said. “We stand proudly in defence of liberty and we are committed to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

More than 8 million American Muslims were not amused by Trump’s speech for singling out their religion in such a reckless manner.

- Tariq A. Al Maeena, Saudi commentator

The irony of the whole event was that it was honouring an Indian politician who was denied a US visa for almost a decade over his role in religious intolerance. Modi, a Hindu nationalist, was chief minister of India’s Gujarat state when clashes between Hindus and Muslims in 2002 killed more than 2,000, most of whom were Muslims.

Since 1978, Modi has been a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an Indian right-wing, Hindu nationalist, paramilitary organisation currently regarded as the parent organisation of the ruling party of India, the Bharatiya Janata Party. The principal aim of this party is to unite the Hindu community to form a Hindu nation. With more than 270 million non-Hindus in India, many Indian intellectuals and Opposition party leaders have warned of the RSS and a likeness to Hitler’s own Nazi party with its fascist tactics.

Not about Modi

But this is not about Modi. This is about words spoken by Trump that have far-reaching consequences, words that reach the willing ears of a political party in India, bent on reshaping India to a Hindu nation, and foregoing all semblance of democracy. Recent actions in Kashmir against the primarily 8 million residents who are Muslims would testify to what Kashmiris and others are calling ‘mass terrorism.’ Yet no mention of Hindu terrorism was uttered by Trump at the rally.

Nor did Trump touch upon the terrorism that has engulfed the Rohingya people of Myanmar, much of it taking place in his watch. More than a million people of Rakhine are subjected to the worst kind of crimes against humanity and yet no words were spoken of Buddhist terrorism. Neither indeed was there any reference to the terrorism assisted by the government of Sri Lanka against the minorities of the island. The Tamils, Christians, and Muslims share horror stories of their ordeals against the Sri Lankan army and the fervent Buddhist terrorist organisation the Bodu Bala Sena, a Buddhist radical group intent on wiping out all minorities from the island.

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And how about the crimes against humanity happening in Palestine at the hands of Zionist terrorism.

Terrorism that has been ongoing for seven decades! That is no less an act of terror when innocent people are shot and killed, families imprisoned, homes burnt, and basic supplies denied. Such state-sponsored terrorism rarely gets censured by leaders committed to capturing votes.

The office of the president of the United States is a very powerful one and the words spoken by its leader would have to be very carefully thought out. Remarks cheaply blurted to peddle for votes have a far-reaching effect beyond the present audience. Words once spilt cannot be lightly dismissed. Undoubtedly more than 8 million American Muslims were not amused by Trump’s speech for singling out their religion in such a reckless manner.

Nor did Trump’s remarks do justice to the 1.8 billion Muslims elsewhere, many of whom are living under terrorism hardly highlighted or spoken of.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena.