Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s recent rhetoric about American Muslims “reeks of Islamophobia and fascism,” a spokesman for the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group told InsideSources Friday.
That comment from Robert McCaw, government affairs manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, came following Trump’s Thursday statement to NBC News that he “would certainly implement” a government database to register and track Muslims in the United States:
“I would certainly implement that. Absolutely,” Trump said in Newton, Iowa, in between campaign town halls.
“There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases,” he added. “We should have a lot of systems.” Asked whether Muslims would be legally obligated to sign into the database, Trump responded, “They have to be — they have to be.”
Trump’s remarks, made less than a week after last Friday’s deadly ISIS terrorist attack in Paris, were denounced Friday by Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and other GOP contenders, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“This is shocking rhetoric,” Clinton wrote on Twitter.
Bush told CNBC Trump’s comments were “just wrong.”
As a growing number of national publications have pointed out, the notion of a national database to register and track members of a specific religion is reminiscent of Nazi Germany. In an email to InsideSources, McCaw wrote that he agreed with news outlets calling Trump’s ideas fascistic.
“Trump’s refusal to reject special identification and databases for Americans Muslims for the purpose of warrantless surveillance reeks of Islamophobia and fascism,” he wrote.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is also condemning another popular candidate in the Republican presidential field, Ben Carson, for comparing Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs.”
“By mainstreaming Islamophobic and unconstitutional policies, Donald Trump and Ben Carson are contributing to an already toxic environment that may be difficult to correct once their political ambitions have been satisfied,” McCaw said in a Thursday statement. “Such extremist rhetoric is unbecoming of anyone who seeks our nation’s highest office and must be strongly repudiated by leaders from across the political spectrum.”
In an interview with InsideSources earlier this week, McCaw said the Republican Party’s relationship with American Muslims has been transformed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. George W. Bush received roughly 70 percent of the Muslim vote in the 2000 presidential election, and after 9/11 he made clear that the United States was not at war with Islam.
Speaking directly to Muslims in his speech to Congress following the attack, Bush said:
We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.
But McCaw said “there’s been a devolution in how Republicans talk about American Muslims,” with Trump and Carson representing the tip of the iceberg.
Asked if there were any current GOP presidential candidates who generally spoke well of Muslims, McCaw named South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. However, he saved his most fulsome praise for another Republican contender.
“The strongest presidential candidate in the Republican Party — the GOP standard-bearer in speaking out against anti-Muslim bigotry — is [New Jersey] Gov. Chris Christie,” McCaw said. “Christie has no apparent history of Islamophobia, and he’s actually done a lot for the rights of Muslims.”
McCaw has noted that Christie criticized Trump for failing to correct a man who said America has a “Muslim problem” and that President Barack Obama is Muslim non-citizen of the United States. In addition, the governor defended his own nomination of a Muslim judge to the New Jersey Superior Court.
In the face of allegations that he was promoting Sharia law with the nomination, Christie said, “This Sharia law business is just crap. It’s just crazy, and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”
The latest national polling shows Christie trailing in the Republican field, registering in the single digits. In contrast, an NBC News survey released Friday shows Trump “has the frontrunner spot to himself,” polling a full 10 points ahead of any other candidate.
UPDATE — 2:25 p.m.: Trump sent the following tweet Friday afternoon:
I didn't suggest a database-a reporter did. We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2015