Prominent Muslim Americans have reacted with anger and dismay to the incendiary remarks of Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race who called for a database of all Muslims in the country to be set up, in order to track their movements.
Trump’s comment was compared by several Muslim-American groups to the branding and forced identification of European Jews that paved the way to the Holocaust.
Muslim leaders told the Guardian they were shocked that a public figure who is the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination would utter such an inflammatory idea in the wake of the Paris attacks , when relations were already fraught.
“This is beyond terrifying, any student of history knows what special IDs did in Europe,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the largest Muslim advocacy group in the US, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair). “In 20 years I have not heard such intolerance and hatred from political leaders in this society.”
Awad said that Trump’s promise to “certainly implement” a Muslim database were he to win the race for the White House – coupled with comments equating some Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs” by his immediate Republican rival Ben Carson – suggested that Islamophobia had been co-opted into mainstream US politics.
“We are talking about America in the 21st-century potentially about to be led by dangerous people,” he said.
Saif Inam of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a Washington-based policy institution, also likened Trump’s proposed database to the “J” that was stamped into the passports of European Jews by the Nazis.
“The fact that he has the gall to say that and still be up there in the polls is troubling to say the least,” he said.
Inam said what was most disturbing was the implication that many core conservatives supported the contentious positions struck by Trump and Carson.
“This is creating a climate of hostility and we have to stop it before it spreads,” he said.
The provocative statements of the two leading conservative candidates are all the more worrying for Muslim groups because they were not made in isolation. The Republican party has responded to the Paris attacks by embracing almost in unison positions that assume Muslims should be treated with suspicion.