WASHINGTON – Donald Trump apparently wants to institute something akin to Jim Crow discrimination against Muslims, including those who are citizens of the United States. Is this what the Republican Party wants as well?
What’s your opinion about legalized religious bigotry, House Speaker Paul Ryan? How about you, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? Do Republican quislings agree with the man they have endorsed for president? They should never again speak of the hallowed traditions of the Party of Lincoln, because those ideals are being spat upon by the presumptive nominee. The GOP is now the Party of Trump.
On Sunday, “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson reminded Trump that last year he had raised the idea of “profiling” for Muslims and asked him to elaborate. Trump’s response: “Well, I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country. Other countries do it,” he said, naming Israel, and “we have to start using common sense.”
Pinning Trump down on any specific proposal is difficult because he is all over the map, often contradicting himself in the course of a single sentence. But from the rest of that interview, in the context of what he has previously said about Muslims, it is all too clear what he means.
Profiling in the law enforcement sense means singling out people with certain characteristics for extra scrutiny. After saying we need to think about doing this to Muslims, Trump immediately went into an anecdote about one of his rallies.
“People that obviously had no guns, had no weapons, had no anything, and they were being – they were going through screening. And they were going through the same – the same scrutiny, the absolute same scrutiny as somebody else that looked like it could have been a possible person. So, we really have to look at profiling.”
By “possible person,” Trump clearly meant “possible troublemaker.” But who were those attendees who so obviously meant no harm? We know from polls that Trump’s support base is overwhelmingly white and largely male. Trump was suggesting that those who fit that profile could have been waved through while special attention was paid to young people, women and minorities who might have come to the rally to protest.
That’s not the way it works, of course. Trump has Secret Service protection, and when agents set up a magnetometer checkpoint, everybody has to go through. Trump, as usual, thinks he knows best. He seems to believe intent can be infallibly discerned from appearance.
This helps us understand his toxic ideas about profiling Muslims. Despicable acts of terrorism have been committed by groups and individuals who believe in a warped view of Islam rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, including the more than 3 million who live in the United States. In Trump’s eyes, however, all Muslims are suspect.
Following the San Bernardino killings last year, committed by an apparently self-radicalized married couple, Trump called for a ban on admitting Muslims to the country. He continues to blame “people in the Muslim community” for not reporting those killers’ plans, even though there is no evidence, I repeat no evidence, that anybody, Muslim or otherwise, knew of their rampage in advance.
Likewise, Trump darkly suggests that there must have been Muslims who knew about the apparent radicalization of Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, but said nothing. The truth is that while Mateen’s wife has been interviewed by authorities, there is no evidence that anyone outside their household had any inkling of what Mateen was about to do.
Trump wants to put Islamic houses of worship under special surveillance. In his interview with Dickerson, he spoke admiringly of authorities in France who, by his account, are “closing down mosques.”
By criticizing “Muslim communities” for not reporting the jihadists in their midst – which is a lie, by the way – Trump puts all Muslims under suspicion. What are the implications of this worldview? Do you have separate security lines at airports for Muslims, the way Southern gas stations used to have separate bathrooms for “colored” patrons? Do you reassign the nearly 6,000 Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to segregated units, or do you so doubt their loyalty that you just kick them out? Do you put all Muslims on a no-buy list for guns and ammunition?
The Republican Party is about to nominate for president a man who manifestly does not believe in freedom of religion. Shame on the GOP officials who meekly fall in line.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.