Cameron vs Trump: Just how much Islamophobia is acceptable?

Cameron vs Trump: Just how much Islamophobia is acceptable?
The British PM has called out Trump's divisive politics – is his politics of alienation more acceptable than the GOP's presumptive nominee?
4 min read
17 May, 2016
Donald Trump and David Cameron have exchanged shots in recent days [Getty/Getty]

This week, British Prime Minister David Cameron was added to the long list of people that prospective Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is not too happy with.

Along with Muslims, Mexicans, abortion activists and a whole host of others, the British PM has drawn fire from America's baddest politician by affirming his stance that Trump's plans for a Muslim entry ban to the United States are, "stupid, divisive and wrong".

Ever ready for a saloon shootout, the real-estate tycoon fired back, saying that he "might not have a good relationship" with Cameron if he were to become president.

This of course, was after the 69-year-old had dealt London Mayor Sadiq Khan a verbal drumming by asking him to take an IQ test for snubbing his offer to make him an exception to the ban on his co-religionists.

It is against this backdrop of political claptrap and playground insults that a key question must be asked - just how much Islamophobia is politically acceptable?

Cameron casts the first stone

While the British Conservative Party premier was right to censure Trump's rhetoric, the event that renewed the relevance of this particularly rotten plank of Trump's campaign - Sadiq Khan's mayoral victory - calls into question Mr Cameron's own credentials as a champion of acceptance and equality. 

Indeed, the city of London is still fresh from having rejected the racist campaign headed by Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, who drew on Sadiq Khan's background as a Muslim to stoke fears about alleged links to extremism.

Sadiq Khan
Trump challenged London Mayor Sadiq Khan to take an IQ test
after calling him 'ignorant' about Islam [AFP]
The British PM himself added to Goldsmith's toxic campaign, accusing Khan in parliament of having shared a platform with an imam who Cameron said "supports IS".

It was then revealed that Suliman Gani, the imam in question, had actually spoken out against the Islamic State group on numerous occasions, and had actually liaised personally with Conservative MPs to get Muslims to support the party of government.  

It was only after Goldsmith's electoral defeat that leading Conservative Party members came out to condemn the divisive electoral campaign, accompanied by a non-apology by Cameron for the "misunderstanding" which had resulted in threats to a British imam's life.

When urged to apologise for the "disgraceful" and "racist" campaign by Liberal Democrat Party leader Tim Farron, however, Cameron dodged the opportunity, responding with a joke that was met with applause from the Conservative benches in parliament.

A track record of division

This is not the first time that David Cameron has engaged in the politics of division with regards to British Muslims.

In January this year, the British PM caused a huge stir when he singled out Muslim women as the target of a campaign to learn English.

Cameron stated that the "passive tolerance" of separate communities left many Muslim women vulnerable to the "backward attitudes" of a minority of Muslim men.

The PM's words prompted criticism from within parliament and a social media campaign in which British Muslim women used the #TraditionallySubmissive hashtag to post pictures of themselves and their achievements to set the record straight.

Cameron mansplains to Muslim women
David Cameron "mansplains" to Muslim women [Getty]

As opposition leader in 2006, the Conservative Party leader made similar comments in which he said he would ban "Muslim ghettos" from developing, as it worried him that "we have allowed communities to grow up which live 'parallel lives'".

Potato Potahto

Judging from David Cameron's own record with British Muslims, it seems quite rich that the British Prime Minister has come out to lambast Trump's inflamatory rhetoric.

While Trump absurdly promises not to let Muslims into "his America", David Cameron has not gone to such extremes. But he has actively ensured that the glass ceiling is firmly in place for those Muslims that do live in his country.

As his support for the Conservative Party's mayoral campaign showed, David Cameron is no stranger to the politics of division and Islamophobic fearmongering.

In reality, the politics of Trump and Cameron, with regards to Muslims, are just two shades of the same animal. Both have shown that their belief in holding Muslims under collective suspicion for one reason or another, however one is just more outspoken and bordering on absurd than the other.

With such a high benchmark for inflamatory rhetoric now set by the prospective US Republican Party leader, it seems that politicians can sweep their own divisive politics under the rug, making their's acceptable so long as they don't trump the Trump at his own game.