A Dubai real estate developer that is building luxury villas and golf courses in partnership with Donald Trump is standing by the billionaire presidential candidate, saying his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. will not get in the way of their business projects.
Damac Properties is partnering with Trump because his organization is "one of the premium golf course operators in the world," said vice president Niall McLoughlin in a statement. "As such we would not comment further on Mr. Trump’s personal or political agenda, nor comment on the internal American political debate scene."
Damac is building the Trump International Golf Club as part of a mega-development on the outskirts of Dubai. The 42 million square feet Akoya district will also feature a cluster of Trump-branded villas alongside other high-end real estate.
The project is, in many ways, Peak Trump. In its Bugatti-branded villas, owners will be able to park their supercars in glass-enclosed spaces in the living room. "Cherish your car even when you’re not driving it," read the ads. "Your guests can sit back and admire the unique centrepiece to your home." Those who buy a Trump-branded mansion get their very own Trump Card, which "opens doors to a host of privileges."
But Trump's brand, in America and abroad, has taken heavy hits as his presidential campaign embraces bigotry and xenophobia.
Sultan al-Qassemi, a Dubai-based social commentator, said that while companies like Damac are likely bound by contracts that would be difficult and expensive to cancel, "they're certainly uncomfortable" about Trump's comments. As for potential Trump villa buyers in Dubai, "I wonder how many will feel comfortable enough to live in a community that bears his name," he told the BBC World Service.
Even Trump's most outspoken supporters in Dubai are having second thoughts. Khalaf al-Habtoor, himself a billionaire real estate tycoon whose name is branded on some of the city's finest hotels, endorsed Trump in a newspaper editorial in early August. "What the US needs is not a thinker but a fearless doer," he wrote.
By late November, after Trump's false claim that thousands of Arabs were seen celebrating the September 11 attacks in New Jersey, Habtoor changed his mind. "I believed – and still do – that America is lacking strong leadership," he wrote in a follow-up. "But when strength is partnered with ignorance and deceit, it produces a toxic mix threatening the United States and our world."
He may have lost the crucial al-Habtoor endorsement, but Trump is a big fan of Dubai, even though he thinks its citizens should be banned from entering the United States. He even wishes his home town could be more like the Middle Eastern emirate.
"The world has so many problems and so many failures, and you come here and it’s so beautiful,” Trump said at a press conference launching the Damac project, according to a Vice News report. “Why can't we have that in New York?”