Asian leaders Wednesday congratulated Donald Trump for his stunning win in the U.S. presidential election, but some Muslims in the region were voicing anxiety about the future commander-in-chief who had made provocative comments about Islam while on the campaign trail.
The leaders of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh and India all issued statements welcoming the victory by the real estate tycoon who has never held public office. Trump, who started out as a long shot for the presidency, stormed through to the Republican nomination on a populist platform and upset an odds-on favorite in Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election.
“Donald Trump was considered a distant outsider when his candidacy was first announced. He beat the establishment consensus by winning the Republican nomination, and did so again with his remarkable victory today,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement.
Two years ago, the United States and Malaysia elevated their relationship to “a comprehensive partnership, and we are firm allies in the worldwide fight against terrorism and extremism,” Najib said, adding, “we look forward to continuing this partnership under President-elect Trump.”
In running for election to the Oval Office, Trump vowed to wipe out the extremist group Islamic State (IS) – which also is seen as a threat to national security in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia.
“On behalf of the Indonesian government and all the people, I convey my congratulations to president-elect Donald J. Trump,” the Jakarta Post quoted Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as saying on Wednesday evening.
“I invite the U.S. president-elect to continue our diplomatic relationship to create peace and welfare in the world,” said Jokowi, the leader of the country that boasts the world’s largest Muslim population.
But on the road to being elected 45th president of the United States, Trump angered followers of Islam at home and abroad – including in Indonesia – by calling for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. following a deadly attack by IS sympathizers in San Bernardino, Calif.
On Wednesday, the leader of the influential Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) warned that Trump’s defeat of Clinton had the potential to increase tensions between the U.S. and the Muslim world.
“Before becoming president, he [had] already made negative statements, was cynical, and even his actions [were negative toward Muslims]. I cannot understand in this modern era how there is a person who is exclusive like him,” CNN Indonesia quoted Din Syamsuddin, chairman of MUI’s advisory board.
Indonesian activist Alijah Dierte expressed similar concerns about Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric as the candidate was on verge of clinching the presidency.
“I’m very afraid, will there be more wars? Will America attack Muslim countries again?” Alijah told Agence France-Presse.
The widely unexpected outcome in the presidential election also fueled uncertainty in Southeast Asian markets.
The Indonesian rupiah and Malaysian ringgit dropped 0.8 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, against the U.S. dollar, and Thailand’s stock exchange lost as much as 1.6 percent during the day of trading, according to media reports.
Nonetheless, Thai Prime Minister and junta chief Prayuth Chan-o-cha told reporters in Bangkok on Wednesday that he was offering his congratulations to the winner of the American presidential race.
“We must preserve maximal interests,” Prayuth said, noting that Thailand’s alliance with the U.S. dated back 183 years.
“We ready ourselves to adapt to changes and adopt pro-active foreign policies and balance ourselves among all partnering countries in the world community,” he added.
In South Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Trump, whose voters reportedly included a segment of the large Indian-American immigrant community.
“We appreciate the friendship you have articulated towards India during your campaign,” Modi said on Twitter.
“We look forward to working with you closely to take India-U.S. bilateral ties to a new height.”
In neighboring Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other government officials also congratulated Donald Trump and running mate Mike Pence.
“Your victory in the U.S. presidential election is certainly a testimony to your extraordinary leadership qualities [for] serving the American people and also … humanity,” Hasina said in inviting the president-elect and his wife, soon-to-be first lady Melania Trump, to visit Bangladesh.
Tia Asmara and Ari Firdaus in Jakarta, Razlan Rashid in Kuala Lumpur, Pimuk Rakkanam in Bangkok, and Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report.