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'Bridging rifts with Muslims is Trump's priority'

Bernd Debusmann Jr. (Chief Reporter)/Dubai
bernd@khaleejtimes.com Filed on July 24, 2016 | Last updated on July 24, 2016 at 06.28 am
Bridging rifts with Muslims is Trumps priority
Trump will be more careful about his choice of wording and comments, says UAE-chapter of Republicans Overseas leaders.

UAE-chapter of Republicans Overseas members say Trump's his campaign will work to bridge rifts with Muslim and Hispanic communities.

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump and his campaign will be working to bridge rifts with Muslim and Hispanic communities in the months ahead of America's November elections, according to senior members of the UAE-chapter of Republicans Overseas.

Republican Overseas is a political organisation which seeks to help American voters register, represent 'Republican values', disseminate information about Republican candidates, and discuss issues of importance to Republicans abroad.

As a candidate, Trump has repeatedly come under fierce fire for his comments on Muslims, which at one point included banning all Muslims from entering the United States. It was later amended to a call for "special scrutiny" on foreigners coming from "regions associated with Islamic terrorism."

In an interview with Khaleej Times, Josh Atkinson, the Dubai director of Republicans Overseas UAE, said that "some of his comments were taken out of context".

"When he was saying that, he meant that we need to put a pause on our current immigration programme and figure out what we should do to make America safe, how to reorganise the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and Homeland Security," he said. "This is to make Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Buddhist Americans safe in their own country."

"We have to have some sort of framework," he said. "You have to have a proper vetting and checking system to make it safe for everyone," he added.

Going forward, Atkinson said he believes that Trump will be more careful about his choice of wording and comments.

"He already has. If you look at his speeches and when he comes on, teleprompters come up," he noted. "It's a process of rebuilding unity across cultures, races and religions."

Dr Steven Anderson, chairman of Republicans Overseas in the UAE, said that "we live here in an Islamic nation, and naturally they'll ask about this."

"If I was Trump right now, I would spend until election day clarifying myself to the Hispanic community, the Muslim community, and people per se, so that they have a better understanding of what he's trying to get across," he said.

Dr Anderson said he believes that there is a mistaken - but common - perception that most members of the Republican Party harbour anti-Muslim sentiments, and compared that belief to the misconception held by some Americans that all Muslims are anti-Western and anti-American.

"Because he perhaps didn't say some things correctly, all of us were misunderstood. It's a hugely important issue," he said.

"Just as people here see Trump and get an automatic connotation because they don't know enough about Trump or America to know any better, it's the same as an average American sitting in Arkansas getting a perception of people because they see someone on TV with a machine gun in Paris."

FATCA prime issue on mind of UAE Republicans

Among the most important issues for Americans abroad - both Republicans and Democrats - is the repeal of FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Because of FATCA - a federal law which was passed in 2010 - American citizens living abroad must report their worldwide income, as well as their foreign bank accounts, to pay taxes in the United States.

Many overseas Republicans believe that FATCA denies overseas Americans their constitutional rights and imposes unnecessary hardships on them. Those who fail to comply are subject to heavy fines, imprisonment, and possible passport revocation.

Of the 250,000 US nationals in the GCC who are affected by the act, nearly 20 per cent are based in the UAE, according to estimates. In the UAE, financial institutions are obligated to report information on US citizens to authorities in the UAE, which report the findings to the US.

Dr Steven Anderson, chairman of Republican Overseas in the UAE, said that he believes that the widespread unpopularity of FATCA works in Donald Trump's favour with many overseas voters.

"These kinds of rules and laws make people wonder who put them there, to be treated like a criminal despite having done nothing wrong," he said. "It's part of the [Trump] platform that FATCA will be repealed."

"That's a great plus for the Republican Party, because any overseas... should realise that they have to choose between voting to continue this, or voting for the party that will flick it out the window," he added.

Josh Atkinson, the Dubai director of Republicans Overseas UAE, said that the repeal of FATCA would also benefit the banks and financial institutions of the UAE and elsewhere.

"If the big banks and institutions understand, they'll think that repealing that (FATCA) will save tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars every year in annoying and unscrupulous costs that they shouldn't be having to pay," he said.

Additionally, Atkinson said that many overseas Republicans hope that Trump will help balance the US budget.

"That would benefit not only the American economy, but the global one. If the American economy becomes more unstable, then the cost of international transactions increases," he noted. "Stability and strength in the US economy benefits not only the US, but the globe."

bernd@khaleejtimes.com

author

Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Originally from Mexico City, I've been in Dubai since January 2015. Before arriving in in the UAE I worked as a general news reporter in TV and print in Mexico City, NYC and Washington DC. I'm interested in defence issues, politics, technology, aviation and history. In my spare time i enjoy traveling and football - I'm a keen fan of Chelsea FC. I developed an interest in the Middle East traveling through Jordan and the West Bank. I have a BA in Political Science from Dickinson College in the USA and an MA in International Journalism from City University London.


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