Trump likens proposed Muslim ban to Roosevelt policy
Cross-party condemnation for tycoon’s desire for ‘shutdown’ on Islamic immigrants
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Tuesday likened his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States to second World War policies implemented by former president Franklin Roosevelt against people of Japanese, German and Italian descent.
“What I’m doing is no different than FDR,” Mr Trump said on ABC’s Good Morning America program in one of a round of heated television interviews where he defended his plan in the wake of last week’s California shooting spree by two Muslims who authorities said were radicalised.
“We have no choice but to do this,” the candidate seeking the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race told ABC.
“We have people that want to blow up our buildings, our cities. We have to figure out what’s going on.“
Mr Trump said that Roosevelt’s policies were worse.
During the second World War Two, more than 110,000 people were forcibly detained in US government detention camps. Roosevelt issued the policies immediately after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, authorising law enforcement to target “alien enemies”.
In an unusually lengthy interview on MSNBC, Trump said he did not know how long the ban on Muslims would last. “Until we can get our hands around the situation, we have to do something and we have to do it now,” he said.
On Tuesday, Mr Trump reiterated that a ban would last until Congress acts. He also said Muslim Americans would be allowed back into the country after an overseas trip.
Asked about its implementation, he told MSNBC that people would be asked about their religion at US borders and that the ban would extend to Muslim leaders of other nations.
In a confrontational exchange with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, Mr Trump, his voice hoarse, defended such measures as necessary: “We’re at war. Get it through your head, Chris.”
Republicans and Democrats united to condemn Mr Trump’s plan.
The Republican frontrunner intensified the hard rhetoric that has characterised his presidential campaign with a proposal that was roundly criticised for stirring religious divisions and preying on fears.
“Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” his campaign said in a statement released on Monday.
The statement “preventing Muslim immigration” quoted poll data by Pew Research “among others” that showed there was “a great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population.”
Since starting his campaign by accusing Mexico of sending criminals and drug dealers to the US, Mr Trump has tacked right, dominating the air waves with his bombastic nativism and winning over white conservatives disillusioned with the Washington establishment.
His Republican rivals have struggled to narrow his double-digit lead, forcing them to shift to the right in an attempt to win back ground.
Mr Trump read out his anti-Muslim statement at a campaign rally in South Carolina last night to enthusiastic cheers from his supporters.
“We are out of control,” he said. “We have no idea who’s coming into this country. We have no idea if they love us or hate us. We have no idea if they want to bomb us,” he said, explaining his proposal.
“We have no choice, we have no choice, we have no choice,” said the property tycoon to applause from the crowd.
The White House sent out its spokesmen on television news to denounce the reality TV star for his latest incendiary comments.
“What he is doing is he’s dividing America in a really cynical way,” said President Barack Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest.
Fearful of the backlash against the wider Republican Party, his rivals trying to beat him to the party’s nomination condemned his proposal that is viewed as a response to his slip in a local poll on Monday.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the one-time presumptive Republican nominee, called Mr Trump “unhinged.”
Ohio governor John Kasich said that Mr Trump’s plan should disqualify him from becoming president.
“This is just more of the outrageous divisiveness that characterises his every breath and another reason why he is entirely unsuited to lead the United States,” said Mr Kasich.
South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a foreign policy hawk, said that Trump has come from “making absurd comments to being downright dangerous with his bombastic rhetoric.”
Texas senator Ted Cruz, a conservative who previously called for a religious test to permit only Christian refugees from Syria to enter the US, was more cautious in his rejection of Mr Trump’s proposal.
“Well that, that is not my policy,” he said, pointing out that he had called for a moratorium on refugees from countries where Islamic State militants and al-Qaeda control a substantial amount of territory.
Mr Cruz leapfrogged Mr Trump in the polls to take the lead in Iowa, the state that starts the presidential nominations on February 1st.
The Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton called Mr Trump’s idea “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive,” telling him on Twitter: “You don’t get it. This makes us less safe.”
Socialist senator Bernie Sanders, who is trailing Mrs Clinton in the Democratic polls, joined the chorus of criticism against Mr Trump.
“Demogogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin,” he said.
“Now Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims.”
US Muslims called Mr Trump’s remarks “reckless” and “un-American” saying that extremists would use them to draw recruits.
“Donald Trump sounds more like the leader of a lynch mob than a great nation like ours,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Additional reporting: Reuters