(From agencies)

US Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has referred to the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square as a “riot.”

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The outspoken billionaire made the remark during a televised debate late Thursday when asked about the student-led protests and subsequent government action.

Specifically, CNN moderator Jake Tapper wanted Trump’s response to critics who had expressed concern about previous Tiananmen comments Trump reportedly made to Playboy magazine in 1990.

“About China’s massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, you’ve said: ‘When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.’ How do you respond?” Tapper asked.

Trump said the comments did not mean he had endorsed what happened.

“I was not endorsing it. I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength,” he said. “And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn’t mean at all I was endorsing it.”

Hundreds died after the Communist Party sent tanks in June 1989 to contain demonstrations on Tiananmen Square in Beijing where student-led protesters had staged a peaceful sit-in to demand democratic reforms.

‘Trump should apologise’

A leading Muslim civil rights group is calling on Trump to apologise for his claim that “Islam hates us”.

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that aired on Wednesday night, Trump was asked whether he thinks Islam is at war with the West.

“I think Islam hates us,” Trump responded. “There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There is an unbelievable hatred of us”.

The statement drew swift condemnation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which called on Trump to apologise for the comment.

“Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric does not reflect leadership, but instead reflects a bigoted mindset that only serves to divide our nation and the world,” Nihad Awad, the group’s national executive director said.

Official warns of clash of civilizations 

A top security official in Dubai warned Friday of a “clash of civilizations” if  Trump becomes president.

Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the deputy chairman of police and general security in Dubai, took to Twitter to respond to Trump’s ‘Islam-hates-us’ remark.

Referencing political scientist Samuel P. Huntington’s theory that future wars would be fought between cultures, Tamim warned that a Trump win could see him face Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“If Trump beats Hillary (Clinton), that means that the scenario of the clash of civilizations created by Samuel will come to light at the hands of the candidate and al-Baghdadi,” Tamim wrote.

Trump  came under fire from his rivals too.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said the United States needs to maintain good relations with Muslim countries in the Middle East to help in the fight against Islamic State militants.

“We are going to have to work with people in the Muslim faith even as Islam faces a serious crisis within it,” Rubio said.

Rubio also defended American Muslims as patriots.

“If you go anywhere in the world you’re going see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslims,” he said.

“Anyone out there that has the uniform of the United States on and is willing to die for this country is someone that loves America,” he added.

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