Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States drew a growing wave of international criticism on Wednesday and cost him business in the Middle East.
Israeli politicians demanded Trump be blocked from a planned late-December visit, although a government official said the Dec 28 meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was still on. Meanwhile, more than 150,000 Britons signed an online petition to ban Trump from the United Kingdom.
A major chain of Middle East department stores halted sales of the real estate mogul’s glitzy “Trump Home” line of lamps, mirrors and jewelry boxes, hitting the businessman and former reality TV star in the pocketbook.
Even China weighed in with indirect criticism of Trump’s comments, which have been condemned by the White House, US congressional leaders, the United Nations, the prime ministers of France and Britain, a wide array of human and civil rights groups and many of Trump’s Republican rivals and potential Democratic opponents in the November 2016 US presidential election.
Trump, who leads opinion polls in the Republican nominating race, called on Monday for blocking Muslims, including would-be immigrants, students and tourists, from entering the country following last week’s deadly shootings in California by two Muslims who authorities said were radicalized.
Left- and right-wing Israeli politicians, as well as Israeli Arab lawmakers, condemned Trump’s remarks and said he should be barred from visiting.
Omer Bar-Lev of the main center-left opposition party, the Zionist Union, took to Twitter to deem Trump a ‘racist.’
“I recommend fighting terrorist and extremist Islam, but I would not declare a boycott of, ostracism against or war on Muslims in general,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a senior Likud lawmaker and Netanyahu confidant, told Israel’s Army Radio.
An Israeli government official, however, confirmed that a meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, scheduled two weeks ago, would take place on Dec 28. Sources close to the right-wing Netanyahu said “he does not agree with everything said by every (US election) candidate.”
In Britain, the number of signatories to a petition demanding Trump be banned from visiting exceeded 150,000 and was growing fast. But Britain’s finance minister, George Osborne, said Trump should not be banned from the country.
In the past, people have been banned from entering the United Kingdom for fostering hatred that might provoke intercommunity violence.
In China, home to about 20 million Muslims, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she could not comment on internal US matters but said China believed “the international community should make a concerted effort to fight terrorism, and at the same time we have always opposed linking terrorism to any specific ethnic group or religion.”
In the Middle East, sales of “Trump Home” products took a hit. The Landmark firm, one of the region’s biggest retail companies with 190 stores in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, said it was pulling all Trump merchandise off its shelves.
“In light of the recent statements made by the presidential candidate in the US media, we have suspended sale of all products from the Trump Home décor range,” Landmark Chief Executive Officer Sachin Mundhwa said in an emailed statement. The company did not give any details on the value of the contract.
Although there were no other immediate announcements of business partners breaking with Trump so far, others made clear they were uneasy using his brand name in the Middle East, where he has been actively expanding his footprint in recent years, heavily concentrated in the Gulf business hub of Dubai.
Trump has courted controversy during his White House run with derogatory comments about immigrants and controversial proposals to deport undocumented immigrants and implement a database to keep track of Muslim Americans
He defended his proposal on Tuesday, comparing his plan to ban Muslims to the US government’s World War Two detainment of Japanese-Americans. He said that President Franklin Roosevelt had overseen the internment of more than 110,000 people in US government camps after Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation providing payments and apologies to Japanese-Americans detained during the war.