Calling in to MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would “strongly consider” shutting down mosques with suspected terrorist ties and slammed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for discontinuing surveillance of them.
When asked if there was something Trump would do “here in the homeland” to protect against attacks like the one in Paris over the weekend that killed more than 100 people, he responded, “Well, you’re going to have to watch and study the mosques because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques. And from what I heard in the old days, meaning a while ago, we had great surveillance going on in and around mosques in New York City and I understand our mayor totally cut that out. He totally cut it out.”
Host Joe Scarborough asked specifically about reports from France that said the country’s minister of the interior planned to shut down some mosques in the wake of the attacks with known ties to terrorist groups. “Donald Trump, the French are talking about that. Is this something you would consider doing as president?” Scarborough asked.
Trump replied, “Well, I would hate it do it but it’s something that you’re going to have to strongly consider because some of the ideas and some the hatred, the absolute hatred, is coming from these areas. You know, New York City as an example. We had a group of people from what I understand that really knew what they were doing, that were really studying the situation and they’re not doing that anymore under the new mayor. And I think that’s a mistake. It’s something that many people — not just me — are considering and many people are going to do.”
“But are you concerned at all about the backlash that can create? And the hatred that can breed?” asked NBC News correspondent Chris Jansing.
“There as already hatred. It’s embedded. It is beyond belief. There is hatred greater than anybody understands. And it’s already there. It not like, what, do you think they think we’re great people? It’s already there. It’s a very, very sad situation,” Trump said. He went on to say he knew Muslims who were “great people” who were being “tarnished” by what was happening.
Trump is referring to the NYPD’s controversial racial and religious profiling of mosques in the city. Though it targeted many in the city, the police also extended their range to 100 miles outside the city, including mosques in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey. This essentially turned the NYPD into the domestic arm of the CIA, and many Muslim groups said it contributed to stigma and increased hate against their communities.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation pushed back against such surveillance, saying, “The NYPD’s program was a disturbing example of street level mass surveillance. It treated an entire population as potential terrorists—much like the NSA mass phone surveillance program has treated every phone call as a potential terrorist connection.”
Muslims who felt unfairly targeted filed a lawsuit against the NYPD for unjustified profiling, but last year a federal judge ruled that such targeting was acceptable. “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself,” Judge William J. Martini wrote in his decision dismissing the ruling.
But an appeals court reviewed the case on October of this year, and said there was enough evidence for the lawsuit to go forward. “We have been down similar roads before. Jewish-Americans during the Red Scare, African-Americans during the civil rights movement and Japanese-Americans during World War II are examples that readily spring to mind,” said Judge Thomas L. Ambro in the court’s opinion.
Ultimately, intense scrutiny of mosques in and around New York City resulted in no terrorist-related cases or leads, according to an Associated Press review. As a result, the NYPD did discontinue NYPD’s unit that focused on Muslim-specific surveillance last year.
Mayor de Blasio called the move “a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.”
On his Monday morning appearance, Scarborough asked Trump, “Would you agree, Donald, that this is just a small percentage of — these radical Muslims — are a small percentage of the entire Muslim population?”
“Yes, but it’s a tremendous amount of horror and damage and vitriol,” Trump continued. “You look at what’s happening. This is something that has to be stopped … I mean, they’re using the internet better than we are.”
Fellow Republican Rep. Pete King (NY) also indicated in an interview with Fox News on Monday that life might become harder in New York City if he had anything to say about it. “We have to put political correctness aside. We have to have surveillance in the Muslim communities. That’s where the threat is coming from. I don’t think today the French police or french intelligence is monitoring the Catholic or Jewish community. The threat is coming from the Muslim community.”