Richard Gere slams Trump travel ban as stoking hate

Hollywood actor Richard Gere said the “biggest crime” of US President Donald Trump and European right-wing populists was to equate refugees with terrorists as it fomented hate.

Speaking at the Berlin film festival where he presented his politically charged new thriller “The Dinner”, Gere, 67, told reporters that Trump’s travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries preyed on fears.

“The number of hate crimes in the US went up enormously as soon as Donald Trump started running for president and I think you’ve seen the same thing here in Europe,” he said, referring to the “conservative movement around the world”.

“Unfortunately we have leaders that stimulate fear and that fear causes us to do really terrible things.”

Gere, a long-time human rights activist who met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, said the “most horrible thing that Trump has done” since taking office last month was equating the words “refugee and terrorist”.

“It means the same thing in the US now — that’s what he’s accomplished — to a large segment of our population,” he said.

“‘Refugee’ used to be someone that we had empathy for, someone we cared about, someone we wanted to help — we wanted to give refuge to a refugee… Now we’re afraid of them and that’s the biggest crime in itself, conflating these two ideas.”

A US court on Thursday unanimously refused to reinstate Donald Trump’s ban, which he has justified on national security grounds and pledged to fight to implement.

Trump repeatedly disparaged Muslim immigrants and refugees during his presidential campaign before going on to win the White House.

The FBI in November reported that hate crimes against Muslims in the US surged 67 percent in 2015 — to the highest level since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.