During the debate last night, presidential candidate Donald Trump was asked what he would do to fight the rise of Islamophobia. The questioner described herself as a Muslim.
His answer was unconvincing and rang a bit hollow. He essentially suggested that Muslims need to self-police by reporting any suspected radical tendencies in coreligionists.
He ought to have met the question head on. Here’s how he might have done so.
Mr. Trump could have begun by simply noting that a phobia is by definition an irrational fear and ask if the thousands of atrocities and terrorist acts conducted globally in the name of Islam would make such fear of Islam ‘irrational’?
He could have then highlighted the strong connection between the failed foreign policy of Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration and the rise of ISIS, whose barbaric atrocities have done so much to fan the flames of so-called Islamophobia.
He could have outlined his own plan for defeating ISIS and effectively degrading their ability to spread terror. Reducing Islamic State atrocities would go a long way towards defusing the fear and anger directed at Muslims generally.
Mr. Trump could have added that one of the tactics he would use to diminish “Islamophobia” would be — as he declared in an earlier speech — to support the "true" moderate Muslims. This could result in a peaceful Islamic message naturally quelling feelings of “Islamophobia.”
Then he could have explained that the only real solution to the problem of “Islamophobia” rests squarely on the shoulders of Muslims themselves. He could have briefly elaborated on this point by noting that if the world were to see Muslims demonstrating in tens of thousands against ISIS atrocities as they did against the cartoons of prophet Muhammad, and if the world were to see respected, mainstream Islamic scholars standing unambiguously against ISIS practices of beheading apostates, killing gays in brutal ways, stoning women to death for adultery, and selling non-Muslim women as sex slaves, “Islamophobia” would begin subsiding immediately and would decrease significantly in short order.
Finally, Mr. Trump could have left the questioner — and the world at large — with a few open-ended questions of his own: Why is Islam the only religion the whole world fears?
Why is the whole world decidedly not afraid of other faiths such as Buddhism or Hinduism or the Baha’i faith? In short, why has the term Islamophobia entered the lexicon, while Buddhiphobia, Hinduphobia, and Bahaiaphobia, for example, have eluded both neologists and the common vernacular?
These types of questions — which require hearers to actually think in order to answer them — make use of an extremely powerful cognitive psychology tactic called the "generation effect," wherein the listener must generate the answer rather than receiving it.
This is widely regarded as the single most powerful educational method. Had Mr. Trump employed this type of questioning, he might have brought many to his side while at the same time justifying his previous positions against Radical Islam.
In brief, Mr.Trump should have been better prepared to confront questions about Islam.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works, Why It Should Terrify Us, How to Defeat It." Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid - Click Here Now.
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