Bradford calling

Why I invited Donald Trump to Bradford … and why I meant it

—The interesting thing about someone who gains a platform and uses it in a negative way is that, rightly, their motives are always questioned.

Too many observers, including me, doubt that Donald Trump believes most of the things he says. I am not sure he is scripted, impassioned in his hatred, but in many ways that is beside the point.

The platform that he has means that he has the ability to influence the views of others. With that comes a responsibility to highlight difficult issues, to challenge, educate and, for many in politics, to improve the lives of as many people as possible.

But the problem has been that his attack on the Muslim community as a whole has already made life far more difficult for a significant number of people. By generalising and inventing his own narratives he has sought to play on people’s fears, to separate and to divide a nation.

And here is the issue with banning him: if we ban him, how can we challenge him? And how does one ban a potential presidential candidate of an ally?

The debate held in Westminster Hall following his remarks centred on whether we can ban him as a ‘hate preacher’. I have no doubt that in many ways he would meet the criteria. But I refuse outright to allow him to define me, my religion or many wonderfully diverse communities of Bradford Moreover, can we really ban our closest ally? We should certainly use our influence and diplomacy with him.

We have to be confident in who we are, and confident enough to challenge hatred in all forms. I am not going to let Trump tell me what it means to be Muslim, especially in such a narrow, warped perspective. Many have spoken out in the United States, many American Muslims have challenged his views, and that is exactly what we should do when he comes here.

We have to change his mind, challenge his rhetoric and, importantly, we cannot ignore that his views are in part, reflective of his audience. By pandering like he does he perpetuates and plays on the worst instincts of fear. He makes it acceptable to blame your problems on someone else, to look at your neighbour with ever increasing suspicion, to close borders and limit all ties with millions of people that contribute massively to their country.

Sadly, we cannot ignore the fact by saying this on the other side of the Atlantic and has no effect, it is in the distance, that it is away from us and therefore can be ignored. He is bidding to become the most powerful person in the world.

So, yes, we have to engage him, yes, we have to challenge him – and I can think of no place better for him to start and see the fantastic contribution that Muslims make than in our great city of Bradford.

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Naz Shah is member of parliament for Bradford West

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