NOWHERE else in the United Kingdom does the proposed state visit of President Donald Trump feature more than in the City of Westminster.
From where he stays in Winfield House, Regent’s Park, to when he goes down the Mall in the royal carriage to Buckingham Palace and Westminster Palace, it’s all going to happen in this borough along with the huge protests it will attract.
It is also a borough where Arabic is its second language, a reflection that most of the Middle Eastern dissident communities are based here now.
You only have to go to Speakers’ Corner on a Sunday afternoon to hear how the politics of the Middle East dominate and spend an afternoon on the Edgware Road to see that clearly.
So we should be concerned from the outset about the impact of Trump’s visit for community cohesion and community relations in the City of Westminster.
We also have have a strong American presence in the borough and it’s not just the American embassy. For example, we have the American School in St John’s Wood and many private colleges based in Marylebone are part of the social infrastructure servicing the many Americans who both live and work in the borough.
Many of them move between the two places, the US and the borough, with dual nationality.
Some of them, like my brother, were none too impressed with how the foreign secretary of the day, Boris Johnson, was defending their rights during the original proposal of the travel ban aimed at Muslims.
Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order is misguided to say the least. None of the seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen – provided the assailants of 9/11 and most of the recent terrorist attacks in the US have been carried out by Americans. While Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon have provided a number of assailants these are also incidentally places where the president has family business interests.
It is also a major propaganda coup for Jihadi groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh (otherwise known as IS) who have always hoped to provoke the US into inflicting communal punishments on Muslims in general – and Trump has just played straight into their hands.
This has special significance on our streets as the City of Westminster was home for Mohammed Emwazi, otherwise known as “Jihadi John”, illustrating well how they can get through to our youth.
So Trump’s travel ban is not just divisive but a gift for the jihadists and we will have to work much harder against its impact in the city among our youth.
As for the government of the day, in the United Kingdom, it is deluded to state that there is a special relationship between the UK and US.
If Theresa May our prime minister feels unable to raise our concerns and cannot withdraw an invitation – at least till the ban is lifted – it’s even more deluded if the prime minister thinks we’ll get a better free trade deal by rolling out the red carpet to a protectionist president, particularly one whose business career is built on imposing losses on the weaker parties.
But let us not forget the cost, potentially, on the streets of our city from his state visit and mitigate against them.
There is a petition on the Westminster City Council website, citing Donald Trump’s politics as “racist, misogynistic and nationalistic” and clashing “with fundamental values of equality, tolerance and inclusion”. It calls for non-co-operation by the council for the state visit. See:http://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/donaldtrump/#detail
Finally this blog piece was first published in the West End Extra on the 17th February 2017.