As he has surged to the top of the polls in the Republican presidential primary race, Donald Trump has targeted Muslims, Mexicans and Asians as threats to national security and the economy.
Around the world, they don’t always appreciate it.
“Trump’s comments only propagate a perception of migrants and Mexicans that I know is not true and that outrages me,” said Nancy Landa, a member of Los Otros Dreamers, a Mexican advocacy group for deportees.
To an unusual degree world leaders and foreign populations appear to be monitoring closely the ins and outs of the American primary season, and the clear focus of much of the fascination is Mr. Trump and his unexpected success to date in the GOP primary. The Donald has already been the subject of parliamentary debate in Britain on whether he should be banned from the country for his inflammatory rhetoric, and foreign leaders find themselves forced to prepare their talking points when asked about prospective relations with a Trump administration.
Pressed recently on CNN for his thoughts on Mr. Trump’s call for a temporary ban on all Muslim travel to the U.S., Jordan’s King Abdullah took the traditional diplomatic exit ramp: “You’re into an election cycle, so I don’t think it’s fair for you to ask a foreign leader to express his opinion on candidates in your country running for election.”
But the restrictions don’t hold for foreign pundits, parliamentarians and ordinary citizens observing from afar one of the more disruptive U.S. campaigns in recent memory.
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Unsurprisingly, the current gathering of international heavyweights at the Davos World Economic Forum has not been kind to Mr. Trump or his agenda opposing trade deals, freer immigration and open borders.
“I’d be happier with a more welcoming integration,” Chilean Finance Minister Rodrigo Valdes told the Reuters news service recently. “It is uncontroversial to say that integration of markets, of trade is a good thing, and this rhetoric does not help that.”
In Mexico on Halloween, masks parodying the candidate and his famous hair were popular. Rumors spread in the Mexican tabloid press recently about the then-fugitive notorious drug lord “El Chapo” ordering Mr. Trump’s assassination via Twitter, but they turned out to be fake.
The British have been more organized.
This month, members of Parliament convened to discuss a citizens’ petition to bar Mr. Trump from the country — where he owns two golf resorts in Scotland — because of his calls to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. The session was held after more than 570,000 people had signed the petition supporting a ban.
In response to the petition, the British government said officials don’t usually comment on cases when they ban someone from the country. But Prime Minister David Cameron has already made an exception to protocol in Mr. Trump’s case, even if an outright ban isn’t in the cards.
“The prime minister has made clear that he completely disagrees with Donald Trump’s remarks,” said a statement from the prime minister’s office. “The Home Secretary has said that Donald Trump’s remarks in relation to Muslims are divisive, unhelpful and wrong.”
In Dubai, entrepreneur and television celebrity Mohamed Parham al Awadhi, 42, said he’s instituted a ban against Mr. Trump in the social media sites of his restaurants, media startups and a popular reality television show.
“We stopped sharing posts related to him and don’t even use his name in conversation,” said Mr. al Awadhi. “We see it as the inciting rhetoric of one irresponsible man with a loud microphone.”
He found it ironic that Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was gaining so much traction in a country with a reputation for having been built by immigrants.
“Look at flourishing cities like New York or San Francisco and how communities have lived together since their foundation,” Mr. al Awadhi said. “Middle Eastern, Asian, African, European and Latin American immigrants and refugees are not new phenomena. They’ve been assimilating with U.S. culture and living side by side with their fellow Americans.”
Mr. Trump has his fans abroad, notably Russian President Vladimir Putin, who welcomed Mr. Trump’s call in one debate for better U.S.-Russian relations and closer military coordination in the battle against Islamic State and other Middle East jihadi movements.
Asked by a reporter about Mr. Trump, the Russian leader called him a “standout, talented person, without any doubt.”
“It is not up to us to assess his qualities,” Mr. Putin added, “but he is the absolute leader of the presidential race.”
And Geert Wilders, head of the anti-immigrant, far-right Dutch Freedom Party, said in a tweet last month he was rooting for the New York billionaire to win.
“Good for America, good for Europe. We need brave leaders,” Mr. Wilders wrote.
Mr. Trump and his campaign accuse his rivals — Republican and Democratic — of overstating the negative reaction abroad, angrily rejecting one claim by Hillary Clinton that Islamic State and other terror groups were using Mr. Trump’s comments in their propaganda videos. Although no such videos were cited, the Clinton campaign refused to retract her claim.
Middle Easterners have been subjected to the chaos of the Iraq War, the Arab Spring and, most recently, the rise of the Islamic State, said Sherif Aref, an editor at Egypt’s largest privately held daily newspaper, Egypt Independent. Mr. Aref said he didn’t understand why, in his view, Mr. Trump was antagonizing terrorists and other enemies of the U.S.
“Mr. Trump is opening the gates of hell for the Americans,” said Mr. Aref, who supports democratic reforms in Egypt and opposes the Muslim Brotherhood, a militant Islamic political party. “His speech seems designed to provoke the feelings of Muslims. If the Republicans are serious about building bridges of credibility and trust, they need to rethink what kind of rhetoric they allow.”
In Pakistan, human rights activist Asma Jahangir was also sharply critical of Mr. Trump’s Muslim comments.
“This is the worst kind of bigotry mixed with ignorance,” she told the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune. “Although we are not as advanced as the U.S., we have never elected such people to power in Pakistan.”
Mr. Trump hasn’t attacked Indian immigrants per se, but he has warned his supporters about the dangers of China and India’s growing economies, and called for overhauling the system of granting special temporary work visas for highly skilled foreigners working in the U.S.
Prospective immigrants like Raju Venkat, 37, an Indian citizen who works in a Seattle IT firm on a temporary work permit, said he and other highly skilled developers wouldn’t be able to stay in the country under new rules Mr. Trump has proposed.
“Any one of us could be illegal at any point of time,” said Mr. Venkat.
Sagar Maniratnam, 42, an IT expert in Bengaluru in southern India, said he didn’t see how Mr. Trump could stop skilled immigrants from entering the U.S. Businesses are seeking to expand the visa programs Mr. Trump wants curtailed, said Mr. Maniratnam, and he will face pressure to resist his plans.
“Large numbers of IT experts would vanish from U.S. firms,” said Mr. Maniratnam. “Suppose I get deported from Silicon Valley to India. Why would I work with such a company who failed to stand beside me?”
Sandeep Dadlani, executive vice president of the Indian outsourcing firm Infosys, suggested that both American voters and the rest of the world should step back and wait for the U.S. electoral process to play itself out.
“It is common in all election seasons for rhetoric and extreme personalities to shine,” he told Reuters at the Davos gathering this week. “Inevitably, we have found government from both sides eventually come up with sensible policies.”
• Jacob Wirtschafter reported from Cairo, Egypt. Paul Imison reported from Mexico City, Mexico. Siddhant Mohan reported from Varanasi, India. David Sands contributed from Washington to this article, which was based in part on wire service reports.
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