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Tuesday, September 6, 2016, 13:52

UN rights chief slams Trump

By Associated Press
UN rights chief slams Trump
In this June 13, 2016 photo, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein delivers a speech at the opening of a new Council's session in Geneva. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The UN human rights chief says US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders are among "populists and demagogues" whose tactics of communication smack of Islamic State group-style propaganda.

In exceptionally strong terms, and with far-right groups on the rise in the wake of extremist attacks, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein warned Monday about the "banalization of bigotry" in Europe and the US by populists who allude back to "a fictional halcyon past" and oversimplify messages with sound bites and Tweets.

Zeid focused mainly on Wilders in the speech at a gala dinner organized by the Hague-based Peace, Justice and Security Foundation. But he also lumped in others, including Trump, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, and Nigel Farage, a former leader of Britain's main anti-immigration party.

"Make no mistake, I certainly do not equate the actions of nationalist demagogues with those of Daesh, which are monstrous, sickening; Daesh must be brought to justice," Zeid said, using the Arabic-language acronym for the radical Islamic State group. "But in its mode of communication, its use of half-truths and oversimplification, the propaganda of Daesh uses tactics similar to those of the populists."

"And both sides of this equation benefit from each other — indeed would not expand in influence without each others' actions," he added.

Wilders recently presented a one-page manifesto ahead of Dutch elections scheduled for March calling for a halt to all asylum seekers entering the country, a ban on immigrants from Muslim nations, closing all mosques and Islamic schools, and outlawing the Quran. Zeid called the manifesto "grotesque" and urged the audience "to speak out and up" against demagogues.

"We will not be bullied by you the bully, nor fooled by you the deceiver, not again," he said.

In a text message responding to AP requests for a reaction to the speech, Wilders wrote: "Another good reason to get rid of the UN I lost my freedom in my fight for freedom, and I don't want my country to lose its freedom as well. That's why we have to de-Islamize. Islam and freedom are incompatible whatever this Jordanian bureaucrat says."

Wilders has lived for years with round-the-clock protection because of threats against him.

Zeid decried a "formula" used by the demagogues: "make people, already nervous, feel terrible, and then emphasize it's all because of a group, lying within, foreign and menacing."

"Then make your target audience feel good by offering up what is a fantasy to them, but a horrendous injustice to others. Inflame and quench, repeat many times over, until anxiety has been hardened into hatred," he said.

The speech drew a standing ovation from the crowd, which included Hollywood star Sharon Stone.

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