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During a CNN interview in which the host wanted to talk about President Donald Trump’s potential connections to last week’s New Zealand mosque massacre, a Muslim physician noted that Trump is “beloved” in the Muslim world.
Qanta Ahmed, a doctor and an associate professor of medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, appeared on CNN Saturday as the network reacted to Friday’s terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.
During her interview, CNN host Fredericka Whitfield played video of Trump on Friday using the word “invasion” in connection with the issue of illegal immigration on the southern border. The word was also used in a manifesto issued by the suspected gunman in the attack. Trump was also mentioned in the document.
The president and the White House condemned the attack.
Although admitting the word choice was “poor” and the timing “much worse,” Ahmed encouraged Whitfield to look at the big picture.
“There is nothing — the president has no responsibility if a fanatic mentions him in a manifesto. A fanatic could equally mention me. So, I don’t think that is his responsibility,” she said, adding she would like to see Trump condemn all forms of “lethal bigotry.”
“And one thing the viewers should know, this president and this administration is often castigated as Islamophobic, but I move in the Muslim word, in Egypt, in Oman, in Jordan, in Iraqi Kurdistan where this president is beloved,” she said.
Support for Trump and his party has been strong for many years, she said.
“This president and the Republican Party going back to George Bush is very dearly held,” she said.
“Today is the anniversary of Halabja, the massacre of 180,000 Kurds at the hands of Saddam Hussein. That only changed because of a Republican president. So, it is very important not to lose so much perspective that we start believing our entire government is Islamophobic. That’s not the case,” she said.
Ahmed also said the word “Islamophobia” is often used incorrectly.
“Islamophobia actually means the refusal to scrutinize or examine Islam or Islamism, Islamist institutions,” she said.
“So we must distinguish lethal, diabolical, anti-Muslim xenophobia as is happening in Christchurch from Islamophobia. Why should we do that? Because, if we do not, we empower Islamists who wish to propagate the myth, the same myth that the white supremacists gunman wants us to believe that we are under siege in the secular world, that we are victims in the West,” she said.
Ahmed said the New Zealand attack needs to be seen at a human level.
“Clearly, these Muslims were victims. Clearly, they were appalling and innocent tragedies which the decency and nobility of New Zealand is coping with now,” she said.
She also said that the video recorded of the attack, which was live-streamed to Facebook, could be a powerful weapon.
“This is an appalling recruiting video for Jihadists, but worse, this is a seed to tell people, tell the frightened public that we are going to fragment, that we are going to divide and our magnificent societies like we have here in the United States, or we have in New Zealand, or in my native Britain, we cannot allow these kinds of splits to occur in society because the entire intent of the perpetrator — in this case a white supremacist/nationalist — in my opinion, international terrorist, is to separate us,” she said.
During her interview, she also touched on the controversy that surrounded Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Muslim, over comments that were condemned as anti-Semitic.
“Anti-Semitism occurred in Congress, and the reaction was when there was outrage that this was somehow hate directed at a Muslim who is spewing Islamist ideology. So, we have to be extremely clear about the language, clear about the narrative …,” she said.
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