Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called on Monday for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on.”
It is perhaps the most sweepingly xenophobic statement by a presidential candidate this year — and it comes in an election already marked by polarizing rhetoric about immigrants, particularly from Trump. Any such order shutting down the immigration of Muslims would not only be unfeasible but it would also surely violate the First Amendment. Only hours prior, President Barack Obama called for Americans of all religions to come together and to reject Islamophobia.
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“It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country, it is our responsibility to reject that Muslim Americans should be somehow be treated differently, because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values, plays into the hands of groups like ISIL,” the president said on Sunday night.
In his statement, Trump argued that “our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
His statement goes on to say that “large segments of the Muslim population” have “hatred” for Americans, citing a survey from the conspiracy theory-promoting think tank Center for Security Policy, which is known for spreading unfounded rumors and releasing poorly sourced reports. Its founder, Frank Gaffney Jr. is “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Gaffney is known for accusing everyone from the president to conservative activists of being part of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Trump also cites Pew Research’s data vaguely, without listing any specific reports. The organization said it cannot evaluate his claims, instead directing MSNBC to their research, which among other things shows that vast majority of Muslims disprove of ISIS and that, while many abroad Muslims do support Shariah law in their countries, they do so with an emphasis on its ways of settling things like property disputes — not its harsh punishments like cutting off hands.
Trump has been polling at the top of the Republican primary field for months, boosted through the polls by rhetoric focusing on undocumented immigrants. In the wake of the devastating attacks on Paris and in California, he’s zeroed in on objecting to the resettlement Syrian refugees, arguing that they are a threat to national security.
This isn’t the first racial and religiously charged fiction Trump has spread during his campaign.
Last month in Alabama, Trump repeated a discredited rumor that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” on 9/11 in Jersey City neighborhoods with Arab communities as the Twin Towers fell. Later, he re-tweeted a graphic that falsely indicated that 81% of white murder victims were killed by black attackers. (FBI statistics in 2014 indicate 82% of white murder victims were killed by a white attacker.) The misinformation seems designed to bolster fears of Muslims and black Americans and — despite being contradicted by numerous fact-checkers — Trump has stood by these falsehoods.
“Donald Trump sounds like a leader of a mob, not like a leader of a great nation like ours. He is doing the work of ISIS,” Ibrahim Hooper at the Council of American-Islamic Relations told MSNBC.
Trump’s statement quickly triggered a backlash of condemnation. Republicans and Democratic rivals alike slammed his remarks as “bigoted,” “fascist” and “reprehensible.”