Why we oppose a state visit by Donald Trump to Britain

Asad Rehman

20 February 2017

A State visit by Donald Trump to the UK adds legitimacy to his ideas and actions. That's why we oppose rolling out the red carpet for Donald Trump. 

On 20 January 2017 Donald Trump became President of the United States. He was elected after a hugely controversial election where he proposed policies that would cause incalculable damage to our planet and its most vulnerable people – from shutting the Environmental Protection Agency to giving the green light to destructive fossil fuel infrastructure such as the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

But beyond the environment he boasted about sexual assault, and was accused of being a sexual predator and of demonising the Muslim and Mexican communities

In his first weeks in office he has certainly lived up to his election promises.

Building a sustainable world means opposing all forms of racism and discrimination

It’s hard to know exactly where to begin, as it feels like it’s been a blizzard of Presidential orders and Presidential appointments that have brought millions on to the streets in protest, and fear to many living inside and outside the US.

As Erich Pica, the Director of Friends of the Earth US, said: “The US is going rogue on climate change. The world must unify in treating Trump as a pariah and not as an excuse for inaction.”

One of the reasons Friends of the Earth exists is to promote sustainable development – improving the quality of life for all of humanity while living within the limits of our natural environment. No group can be excluded from this vision of a better life and better environment for everyone. Building an inclusive society is building a sustainable world, which means that we oppose all forms of racism and discrimination. The policies and views of Donald Trump directly threaten that aim.

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1 Trump's planet-wrecking climate policies 

Donald Trump has called climate change a Chinese hoax and wants to turn his back on the need for urgent action to stop catastrophic climate change. The appointment of leading climate sceptic Myron Ebell to his transition team showed these weren’t just crowd pleasing pre-election slogans.

His threat to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, and turn back the clock on even the existing weak climate policies, would mean that global temperatures will breach the critical 1.5C guardrail, triggering immeasurable damage and destruction for the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

Put simply Trump’s decisions such as giving a green light to the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access oil pipelines, calling for more drilling and fewer regulations threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of the world's poorest people.

2 Filling the swamp with vested interests

During the election campaign, Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp. In reality he has filled the swamp with powerful fat cats from big corporations and Wall Street who seek to rip up protections on clean air, water and land rights, and weaken legislation that limits the power of big business.

Trump has promised to remove 75% of regulations, has gagged US agencies including government scientists from speaking about climate change, and appointed Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobile, to be his Secretary of State. Exxon Mobile is the fossil fuel company most active in denying climate change exists,

3 Trump's Muslim and refugees ban

One of Trump's most offensive policies has been his so-called Muslim Ban. The ban, which prevents citizens from 7 majority Muslim countries from being able to travel to the US, was made alongside an announcement to rip up US obligations on protecting refugees, including children from Syria.

When the most powerful and richest country in the world turns its back on its legal and moral obligations to help those most in need, it sends a signal to others that they too can ignore international law and turn their back.

Climate refugees

In addition, consider the issue of climate refugees in a world where Trump is US President. It is widely accepted that climate change is worsening every existing global inequality and triggering killer floods and droughts, as well as collapses in food production. This is forcing more and more people from their homes. Increasingly conflicts are being linked to climate change – for example the UNHCR identified a 5-year drought as contributing to the Syrian conflict

The people most affected by climate change are the ones least responsible for causing these crises. In fact the richest 10% of the world (mainly in the USA and other rich developed countries) are responsible for 50% of global emissions, while the poorest 50% are responsible for only 10%. In other words the poor pay the price for rich countries' actions.

And yet when people need help it’s the poorest countries who are helping the most – 83% of all refugees are given safe haven in other poor countries.

Many of those already experiencing the effects of climate change are Muslim majority countries such as Mali, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The failure of rich countries to act has meant that the UN now estimates that 1 in 30 people around the world will be forced to leave their homes due to the changing climate.

In the face of this crisis we need to work together and help each other, not build more walls and fences to separate us. Friends of the Earth is calling for legal protection and support for all those affected (pdf). 

4 Trump and reproductive rights

Women around the world are most affected by inequality, conflict and climate change, with many also facing gender violence and oppression. To have any hope for a sustainable and fairer world, the rights of women must be protected.

The right to contraceptive advice and the right to safe and clean family planning (pdf), including abortion, is a fundamental right of all women.

Donald Trump not only threatens that right in the USA, with his proposals to criminalise women who seek an abortion, but he has also targeted international organisations for giving women information about reproductive rights in developing countries.

5 Making extremism normal

All across Europe and even here in the UK, the politics of racism, extremism and hatred have grown. Political forces that espouse such policies are gaining ground in France, Netherlands, Germany and Austria. Donald Trump gives confidence to others around the world to also seek political office by targeting migrant, black and Muslim communities.

His decision to appoint, as his Chief of Staff, Steve Bannon, who is accused of being a white supremacist and anti-semite, sends a signal that it is normal and acceptable to hold racist views.

Demonising minority communities inevitably leads to an increase in racist attacks, as we have witnessed here in the UK after a toxic Brexit debate that focused on migration. Friends of the Earth oppose such views be they from Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen or British politicians and media.

For the above reasons Friends of the Earth opposes Trump being given a State visit. Such a visit adds legitimacy to his ideas and actions.

Already nearly two million people have signed a petition asking the government not to roll out the red carpet. And even House of Common’s Speaker John Bercow has said Trump’s isn’t going to be allowed to speak there. But Theresa May hasn’t listened, so we need to come together with everyone who cares about the life of all on our fragile planet and opposes hatred and extremism to say we must Stop Trump.

As a Muslim member of staff at Friends of the Earth I am immensely proud that justice is a core value, and that when Trump came for the Muslim community – when he came for the poor, for women, for the most marginalised and for the planet itself – we as an organisation said, "Not today and not ever!"

This is more than an empty gesture; it’s a powerful signal that we will not go quietly into the darkness – and we will fight for our vision of a better, safer and more equal world.

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Donald Trump in front of American flag