Republican presidential contender Donald Trump's calls for banning Muslims from entering the U.S. could damage his existing relationships with Arab investors, as well as fray commercial ties between the U.S. and the entire Muslim world, according to business and foreign affairs experts.
Trump has been partnering with Arab investors for years and has successfully planted his brand on hotels, commercial real estate projects and golf resorts in Muslim nations such as Indonesia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates. In Trump's overseas deals, like many of the ones stateside, it is the power of his name as a symbol of luxury that's sold to prospective investors in Trump-branded condos, time-shares and resort packages.
On Monday, Trump said the U.S. had no choice but to close itself off from all Muslims to protect itself from "people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life."
Trump's call for an outright ban on Muslims entering the U.S. would give Arab investors pause, predicted Lisa Knight, founder of Brand Foundation, a Dubai-based real estate investment advisory firm. "Think about it," she told CBS MoneyWatch. "If you're a Muslim investor and you see remarks like these, would you want to put money in something with Trump's name all over it?"
Indeed, in a swift blow to Brand Trump, a prominent UEA businessman on Tuesday withdrew his support for Trump's presidential candidacy following those controversial remarks about Muslims. In August, Khlalaf Al Habtoor, whose construction company built Dubai's airport, wrote an op-ed expressing the belief that Trump's businesslike approach was just what his beleaguered region needed in a U.S. president.
Al Habtoor expressed a different opinion within 24 hours of Trump's latest statements on Muslims: "When he was talking about Muslims, attacking them ... I had to admit I made a mistake in my supporting Mr. Trump," he told NBC News. "He is creating a hatred between Muslims and the United States of America."
Trump faced backlash from other quarters as well.
"As one of the most popular home decor brands in the Middle East, Lifestyle values and respects the sentiments of all its customers," Sachin Mundhwa, CEO, Lifestyle, said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. "In light of the recent statements made by the presidential candidate in the U.S. media, we have suspended sale of all products from the Trump Home décor range."
On the Trump Organization website, the Trump International Golf Club and the Trump World Golf Club, both in the UAE's Dubai, get prominent play. Both projects are yet to open, according to the Trump website.
In 2012, Trump and daughter Ivanka attended a reception with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to celebrate the opening of the Trump Towers Mall that anchors Trump Towers Istanbul.
Among the candidate's other Muslim nation projects are a Trump Tower complex in Baku, Azerbaijan, and a resort under construction in Bali, Indonesia, to be managed as a Trump-branded property.
Back in 1995, a consortium of international investors, lead by Saudi Arabian Prince al-Waleed bin Talal Abdulaziz al Saud and Kwek Hong Png, a Singapore investor, bought out Trump's remaining interests in New York City's landmark Plaza Hotel. None of the proceeds of the deal went to Trump, but rather to banks that had loaned him money.
As late as this May, Ivanka Trump told the trade publication Hotelier Middle East that in addition to Dubai, the Trump Organization was actively looking "at multiple business opportunities" in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Trump launched his formal presidential bid in June.
Emails requesting comment sent to the Trump Organization and Damac Properties, Trump's partner in the Dubai golf course resorts, weren't answered.
"Trump is giving ISIS what it wants with comments like this. He elevates them," Ahmed Miski, CEO with the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, told CBS MoneyWatch. "How could you apply this to Turkey, a critical NATO ally, which is a Muslim nation?"
"This is extremely dangerous," said Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic Studies at the Keogh School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. "If the Saudis, UAE and the other Gulf states come to think that Americans are hostile to all Muslims, they're far more likely to say 'lets move our money to other parts of the world where we are welcome.'"
Yet, Farok J. Contractor, professor of management and global business at Rutgers University, cautioned that Trump's call for a ban on Muslims coming into the U.S. is still only campaign rhetoric. "The 'clash of civilizations' is still mostly a scholarly concept," Contractor said, advocated by extreme right wing groups in the West and terrorist groups.
"A ban on Muslims entering the U.S. is only a fancy or an utterly hypothetical scenario," he added. "Were this to be enacted, hypothetically, then it would hurt business."