By Staff writer
Airline CEO backs Trump after ‘Muslim ban’ remarks; GCC issues statement condemning 'racist' rhetoric
The CEO of Qatar Airways has backed Donald Trump after the US presidential candidate’s controversial call to ban Muslims from the US.
“Look, Donald is my friend, and we have been friends for a long time,” Akbar Al Baker told the New York Times during a visit to the US timed to coincide with the airline’s new branding campaign.
“I think it is an exercise only to gain political mileage. Nothing more. This is the opportune time to excite more extremist people so that they could give him their votes.”
Al Baker’s remarks put him at odds with a series of business and political leaders in the Middle East who have criticised Trump for comments made after a shooting spree in the US last, which was carried out by two Muslims.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Gulf leaders condemned "hostile, racist" remarks against Muslims and Syrian refugees.
"The supreme council expressed its deep concern at the increase of hostile, racist and inhumane rhetoric against refugees in general and Muslims in particular," the Gulf Cooperation Council said, referring to a GCC heads of state meeting in Riyadh.
The furore has started to affect Trump’s business interests in the region. One of the Middle East’s largest retailers, Dubai’s Landmark Group, has removed Trump-branded products from its stores, while another UAE partner, the Al Tayer Group, said the remarks were “unfortunate”.
However, Trump’s ties with Damac remain intact, with the UAE developer refusing to criticise his comments. Damac is building two Trump-branded golf courses in Dubai.
Trump has insulted 1.6 billion Muslims and failed to apologize - I find it hard to call such a man a friend. Given the statements of support for Trump by Mr Baker - I will no longer fly Qatar Airways. Intolerance and bigotry cannot be condoned, no matter what the reason.
Mr. Baker said"â€œLook, Donald is my friend, and we have been friends for a long time,â€ From a psychological prospective you and Trump are cut from the same cloth in my opinion. " The end justifies the means."