On Sunday night, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked, “Where is there widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims?”
On Monday, presidential hopeful Donald Trump released a statement calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
“Our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” the hotel mogul-turned-politician said.
The Trump campaign confirmed that their proposed ban would apply to tourists as well as refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants. It would even bar Muslim-American citizens living abroad from returning home. This goes beyond other Republicans candidates like Jeb Bush, who have called for barring Muslim Syrian refugees but admitting those of the Christian faith.
“There should be push-back on every bit of this,” Heidi Beirich, the Director of the Intelligence Programs at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told ThinkProgress. “These clearly anti-constitutional statements about Muslims are horrific. It’s a very scary thing.”
Beirich’s job is to monitor extremist groups hate groups. One group on her list, the Center for Security Policy, was cited by Trump in his statement Monday. The group, which has called before for a blanket ban on Muslim immigration, claims to have surveyed 600 American Muslims in an online poll this June. Their reported results founds “25 percent of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad” and 51 percent “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.”
Trump then uses this data — which has been dubbed “shoddy” by Georgetown University — to argue that a large segment of the U.S. Muslim population has “great hatred towards Americans.”
The University’s Bridge Initiative research center debunked the survey’s “unreliable methodology,” “bias,” and “exaggerations” earlier this year, pointing out that the online survey had no way to verify if participants were in fact Muslims living in the United States.
The Center for Security Policy’s anti-Islam advocacy and embrace of conspiracy theories has gone so far that they were temporarily banned from the Conservative Action Policy Conference (CPAC) after claiming the group had been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Some of Trump’s White House rivals immediately pushed back against the frontrunner’s proposal. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called it a “ridiculous position.”
“This is the kind of thing that people say when they have no experience and don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said on the Michael Medved talk show.
The spokesperson for Dr. Ben Carson, Doug Watts, offered: “We do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters Trump had demonstrated “xenophobia and religious bigotry” in his statement, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted the following.
Donald Trump is unhinged. His "policy" proposals are not serious.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) December 7, 2015
Yet this is not the first time Trump has adopted talking points from extremist groups. In November, he tweeted to his millions of followers a set of fabricated crime statistics that showed a disproportionate number of “black on white” attacks.
“He’s sounding like a lot of hate groups, especially the Council of Conservative Citizens,” the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Beirich said. “They demonize all black people as criminal. It’s a hateful stereotype that goes all the way back to slave times, when people argued black people couldn’t control their criminal impulses. So we can see that Donald Trump doesn’t mind using racist arguments. He sounds like a white nationalist.”