September, 2015: “I love the Muslims, I think they’re great people.”
Would he appoint a Muslim to his cabinet? “Oh, absolutely, no problem with that.”
Yes, that was Donald Trump three months ago. Now, his campaign’s Dec. 7 press release states: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This comes in addition to his calls for surveillance against mosques and the possible creation of a national database of Muslims in the U.S.
Many of the Republican candidates for president have not hesitated to echo Trump’s bellicose rhetoric on immigration or other anti-Muslim statements. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz even introduced legislation to keep refugees from coming to the U.S. for at least three years who are from countries where there is a “substantial” amount of control by the Islamic State group or al-Qaida.
But, now, they seem to have had enough: Jeb Bush tweeted that Trump is “unhinged”; Ohio Gov. John Kasich condemned Trump’s “outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath”; former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore called it “fascist talk”; Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted “every candidate for president needs to do the right thing & condemn” Trump; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said “we do not need to resort to that type of activity.”
Even Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney said, “I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in. I mean, religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from. A lot of people, my ancestors got here, because they were Puritans.”
But the real danger of Trump’s rhetoric and policies is not domestic or political here at home – though one can argue that it makes us less safe and more vulnerable – it is from our friends and allies abroad.
Here is what the French prime minister tweeted: “Mr. Trump, like others, strokes hatred; our ONLY enemy is radical Islamism.” A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron called the remarks “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong … what politicians need to do is to look at ways they can bring communities together and make clear that these terrorists are not representative of Islam and indeed what they are doing is a perversion of Islam.”
A columnist for Israel’s Haaretz wrote: “For some Jews, the sight of thousands of supporters waving their fists in anger as Trump incited against Muslims and urged a blanket ban on their entry to the United States could have evoked associations with beer halls in Munich a century ago.” In Pakistan it was called “the worst kind of bigotry mixed with ignorance” by a leading human rights activist.
Trump’s ban would even include world leaders who are Muslim. They would not be allowed into the United States, let alone tourists or relatives of Americans or world renowned individuals coming for a scientific meeting here.
Just like his plan to deport 12 million people, the absurdity is readily apparent. But put yourself in the shoes of of one of the 1.7 billion people across the globe who is a Muslim, 23 percent of the world’s population; you are watching the leading Republican candidate for president of the United States making these statements.
How many recruits will the Islamic State group gain from Trump’s move toward fascism? How confused will young, angry, poor Muslims in the war-torn Middle East be, and how many Muslims will believe “successful” Donald Trump represents American thought and values and our approach to the world?
How long will it take for us to undo this damage? How many years? What price will we pay?
Those may be the scariest questions of all.