#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 0°C Saturday 23 January 2021
Advertisement

Even his most conservative rivals are lining up to hammer Trump over his latest proposal

The businessman’s support for a government database to track Muslims isn’t going down well.

DONALD TRUMP’S SUPPORT for a government database to track Muslims in the United States is drawing sharp rebukes from his Republican president rivals as they try to distance themselves from a proposal that legal experts say is unconstitutional.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush called the prospect of a registry “abhorrent”. Florida senator Marco Rubio said the idea was “unnecessary” and not something Americans would support. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has largely avoided criticising Trump throughout the 2016 campaign, said, “I’m not a fan of government registries of American citizens”.

“The First Amendment protects religious liberty, and I’ve spent the past several decades defending the religious liberty of every American,” Cruz told reporters in Sioux City, Iowa.

The criticism came after Trump voiced support for a mandatory database for Muslims in the US while campaigning in Iowa on Thursday.

Trump was asked by an NBC News reporter about the prospect of a database and whether Muslims would be required to be registered. In a video posted by the network, Trump said, “They have to be.”

Asked whether Muslims would have to register at mosques, Trump said:

“Different places. You sign up at different places. But it’s all about management.”

Source: MSNBC/YouTube

In an interview on Fox News Channel yesterday evening, Trump tried to clarify his position.

“I want a watch list for the Syrian refugees that (President Barack) Obama’s going to let in if we don’t stop him as Republicans,” he said.

He said he had trouble hearing the NBC reporter’s questions. But he did not disavow the idea of a general registry for Muslims living in the country or say decisively he would not support it.

“I want to have watch lists. I want to have surveillance. I mean, we’re not a bunch of babies,” he said.

Trump has also voiced support for closing certain mosques as a way to contain the terrorist threat in the US.

GOP 2016 Iowa Ted Cruz - one of several GOP candidates to criticise Trump over his comments. Source: Associated Press

The Republican candidates’ unified criticism of Trump is striking.

His rivals have vacillated in how they have handled other inflammatory comments from Trump, apparently wary of alienating his supporters while increasingly concerned that he has held his grip on the race so late into the year.

Civil liberties experts said a database for Muslims would be unconstitutional on several counts. The libertarian Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro said the idea violates basic privacy and liberty rights.

Marci Hamilton, a Yeshiva University legal expert on religious liberty, said requiring Muslims to register appears to be a clear violation of the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom.

“What the First Amendment does and what it should do is drive the government to use neutral criteria,” Hamilton said.

“You can use neutral criteria to identify terrorists. What it can’t do is engage in one-religion bashing. That won’t fly in any court.”

Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who has challenged Trump’s lead in the GOP race, said the US should have a database on “every foreigner who comes into this country,” but he rejected the idea of tracking U.S. citizens based on their religion.

“One of the hallmarks of America is that we treat everybody the same,” he said.

“If we’re just going to pick out a particular group of people based on their religion, based on their race, based on some other thing, that’s setting a pretty dangerous precedent.”

About the author:

Associated Press

Read next:

COMMENTS (56)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel