Muslim Americans are calling Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s policy statements – that he would bar all Muslims from entering the United States indefinitely – “fascist” hate speech.
Trump has sustained calls to bar Muslim immigrants from entering the US since Monday. The policy is Trump’s reaction to a shooting that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, which the FBI is investigating as an act of terrorism, because it appears the two alleged perpetrators were “inspired by Isis”.
“He’s a man whose rhetoric incites hatred and he himself even condones street mob mentality,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, who called the proposal “fascist”.
Trump stood by his statements, first made before a campaign rally on Monday evening, and reaffirmed them on two morning talk shows the following day when he said he wanted Muslim Americans to, “turn in the bad ones”, presumably in reference to radicalized Americans. In support of his proposal, Trump referenced several presidential proclamations from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which authorized the internment of Japanese, Italian and German Americans during the second world war.
At the Islamic Center of America, one of the largest mosques in the US, the congregation is “very anxious” about the potential backlash to Trump’s remarks, its executive director, Kassem Allie, said. The center is located in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit that is home to 96,000 people, a third of whom are Arab Americans.
“We are anxious because we have been a part of this community in the United States for many generations,” Allie told the Guardian. “People in our congregation have been here for four or five generations and many people have roots in our congregation that go back to 18th century.” Some in the Muslim community have asked the mosque to increase security, he said, “and we will”.
“We will obviously take precautions,” Allie continued. “But it’s a tragedy when we have people who purportedly want to lead our country fanning the flames of hatred, fanning the flames of bigotry and isolationism.”
Mosques in some parts of the country have already suffered vandalism after the high-profile shooting in San Bernardino. In Philadelphia, Monday morning prayers were interrupted after a pig’s head was thrown at the mosque’s front door. Police are investigating the incident.
“Given that he has so many supporters, we do have concerns that some of the diehard followers may turn to violence,” Walid said. “And that is not a stretch given that, within the past month, his supporters assaulted a Black Lives Matter activist – and Trump later went on to say the activist maybe deserved to get ‘roughed up’ a little bit.”
Others were disturbed that despite apparently Islamophobic statements by Trump, he remained on top of the polls in some key early primary states.
“His policy statement is un-American, immoral, unconstitutional and probably illegal,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ headquarters in Washington DC. “Other than that, it really is disturbing that the leading Republican presidential candidate can make a bizarre policy statement, and he’ll probably get more support because of it – that’s what’s truly frightening.”
Others called it fear-mongering, a “snake oil” cure for security and “reminiscent of Nazi Germany”.
“It’s also just stoking the fuels of fear in such a way for political points,” said Fatina Abdrabboh, director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee’s office in Michigan. “We’re the kind of country that rises above tragedy. This is where we dig into the depths of what we stand for, and we have to resolve and persist to rise above. This guy is [using] a tragedy and spinning it in the most vitriolic ways for political points. That’s just really not helpful.”