Donald Trump said Monday as president he would halt all Muslim immigration to the United States.
The Republican presidential frontrunner announced in a press release he wants a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This includes tourists planning to visit the United States as well as Muslim-American citizens now abroad.
The “policy” is the latest in a series of statements about Muslims following the terrorist attacks in Paris last month. His xenophobic rhetoric has intensified in the last week after a husband and wife inspired by Islamic extremists massacred 14 people in San Bernardino, California, during a holiday party.
To back up his new outlandish claims, Trump cited vague or outright false polling data he claims demonstrates “there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population.” Among the bunk polls he cites is one from a group called the Center for Security Policy, which is led by Frank Gaffney Jr., who has been referred to as a “notorious Islamaphobe” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Gaffney Jr. is “gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within,” including the belief they want to institute Sharia law, SPLC reports.
Gaffney Jr. is perhaps best known for his public crusade against the supposedly creeping influence of sharia Muslim law in American politics. He and his cohorts peddle the conspiracy theory that leading conservative anti-tax warrior Grover Norquist and Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin are agents of the Muslim Brotherhood; and that President Obama himself is being advised by radical Islamists.
Trump echoes Gaffney almost word for word.
“Shariah authorizes such atrocities as murder against non-believers who won’t convert, beheadings and more unthinkable acts that pose great harm to Americans, especially women,” his campaign said in Monday’s statement.
According to Trump, all you need to do to know that all Muslims hate America is turn on your television.
“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, 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.”
Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security advisor, immediately condemned Trump’s remarks during an interview on CNN.
“It’s totally contrary to our values as Americans,” Rhodes said. “You know, we have in our Bill of Rights respect for the freedom of religion. Muslim Americans have made extraordinary contributions to our country, but it’s also contrary to our security.”
Rhodes cautioned that the rhetoric, like that spewed by Trump, could undermine work being done to partner with Muslim communities in the U.S. and abroad to prevent radicalization.
“We should be making it harder for ISIL to portray this as a war between the United States and Islam, not easier,” he said.
GOP candidates also lined up to blast the proposal.
“This is just more of the outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath and another reason why he is entirely unsuited to lead the United States,” Chris Schrimpf, the communications director for John Kasich, told The Daily Beast.
Jeb Bush tweeted, “Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.”
Chris Christie weighed in during an appearance on a radio show late Monday afternoon, saying this was “the kind of thing that people say when they have no experience and don’t know what they’re talking about."
Christie told radio host Michael Medved: “We do not need to endorse that type of activity, nor should we,” he said. “What we need to do is to increase our intelligence capabilities and activity both around the world and in the homeland...We need to cooperate with peaceful Muslim Americans, who want to give us intelligence against those who are radicalized."
Even Ben Carson, who not too long ago said Muslims should not be able to become President of the United States, condemned Trump’s remarks.
“Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay as is done in many countries,” Carson's communications manager Doug Watts told The Daily Beast. “We do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion.”
When The Daily Beast asked what he meant by registering, Watts said “by visa, where it is presently required or visitors information as is presently required.”
Ted Cruz, the newly anointed frontrunner in Iowa, who has often chosen not to go after Trump directly, once again avoided the opportunity here. Cruz’s campaign spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, told The Daily Beast that Cruz had already proposed legislation that “spells out his approach.” The legislation, introduced in November, would bar the United States from admitting refugees from countries where territory is “substantially controlled” by foreign terrorist organizations.
Others really didn’t know what to say.
“Senator Rand Paul has led on the issue of border security, proposing real solutions,” a spokesman told The Daily Beast when asked about Trump’s statement. “That’s why earlier this month he introduced legislation to block visitors and immigrants from nations with known radical elements while a new system is developed to screen properly.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that “Donald Trump doesn’t value the constitution.”
“The Constitution guarantees due process for everyone, and does not afford any [ability for] banning of all people based on religion,” Corey Saylor, a spokesman for CAIR, told The Daily Beast.
“I’m horrified that anyone who is a serious contender for our highest national office could say something like that and hope to be taken seriously. It’s very much time for the leadership of the Republican Party to have a serious discussion with its candidates about whether they want to bring America together or whether they want to use tactics that would tear the nation apart.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center also condemned the plan.
“Donald Trump’s call for a 'total and complete shutdown' of Muslims entering the United States is just the latest example of the extreme, anti-Muslim rhetoric that has reached a fever pitch this year," Heidi Beirich, the director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project told The Daily Beast.
"Trump relies on a debunked study by the Center for Security Policy, headed by conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney. This organization irresponsibly portrays all Muslims as extremists and is at the forefront of a well-funded effort to vilify Muslims in the United States with misinformation and demonizing rhetoric and to instill a climate of fear. The mainstreaming of hate and extremism is dangerous to the millions of peaceful Muslims in our country and harmful to the fabric of our society – our responsible political leaders should condemn this bigotry."
This statement from Trump comes on the heels of the San Bernardino attack conducted by an American citizen, Syed Farook, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, who was in the country on a K1 visa for fiancées.
The ban on immigration is the most incendiary attack yet on Muslims from Trump in recent months.
For the past three weeks, the candidate has defended his false claim that “hundreds” or “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (When a reporter who wrote the story Trump cited as “proof” of the myth said he didn’t remember allegations of crowds being that large, Trump mocked the reporter’s physical disability.)
Trump also recently said that as president he would send all Syrian refugees back and that no more should be let into the U.S.
Furthermore, Trump said he would be open to a database and more to keep track of Muslims. The Republican also said he was open to closing certain mosques.
The hate speak against Muslims echoes similar statements Trump made about Mexicans, whom he said were “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.”
—Additional reporting by Andrew Kirell, Tim Mak, and Olivia Nuzzi.