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World

AFP
December 21, 2016
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Trump frames Europe attacks as clash of religions

Trump frames Europe attacks as clash of religions

WASHINGTON: Berlin police have yet to even put their hands on the right suspect after a truck ploughed into a Christmas market and left 12 people dead.

But Donald Trump has no doubts about what happened.

Just three hours after Monday´s apparent attack, the US president-elect had branded it the latest outrage in what he sees as a global religious war.

His language was a dramatic departure from how Western leaders generally respond to extremism but reflected the tone of his campaign.

"Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday," he declared, in a statement from his office.

"Daesh and other terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad."

Trump made this case before German police released for lack of evidence a Pakistani asylum-seeker who was arrested after the truck attack.

And he spoke even before Amaq, a militant-linked news agency, claimed that Daesh was behind the ramming of the market.

Trump resorted to similar language to condemn the murder, on the same day, of Russia´s ambassador to Turkey by a "radical terrorist."

His decision to focus on the presumed religion of the attackers was a deliberately chosen contrast with the policy of outgoing president Barack Obama.

The seasoned US leader called Germany´s Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday to offer his condolences on "the horrific apparent terrorist attack."

Obama´s administration is fighting extremist groups like the so-called Daesh, but doing so under the banner of "countering violent extremism."

- Travel ban -

He and his generals and diplomats praise the Muslim governments that have joined in the struggle and insist the extremists do not represent a religion.

Secretary of State John Kerry has gone as far as to declare Daesh "apostates" who have twisted the message of a great faith.

Trump, however, has a different set of advisers and apparent beliefs: Extremism can only be defeated if we identify it as springing from Islam itself.

During his campaign he proposed a total ban on Muslims travelling to the United States, at least "until we can figure out what the hell is going on."

His national security adviser, maverick former general Michael Flynn, has argued that Islam is not even a religion but a "political ideology."

"They have declared war against us," Flynn said in August. "And our government does not allow us to talk about this enemy."

"This is Islamism," he said of the threat. "It is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet and it has to be excised.

"We should not fear this idea. We should define it clearly and go after it," he said, summarizing the argument of his book, "The Field of Fight."

But Trump´s clash of civilizations narrative does not just stem from the advice of a former soldier who fought extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another of his closest advisers, incoming White House chief of strategy Steve Bannon embodies a nationalist view with roots in hard right ideology.

Bannon has taken a break from running Breitbart, a favorite news platform of the white nationalist "alt-right," to work with Trump.

Breitbart´s homepage was dominated Tuesday by the news from Germany, prominently featuring criticism of Merkel´s open door to Muslim refugees.

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