Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show,” a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Dean Obeidallah: Requiring Muslims to carry special religious ID cards is degrading
Donald Trump's agenda would be good for ISIS, which hopes Western Muslims will be demonized and alienated
Donald Trump’s words on Thursday detailing the revolting measures he’s open to imposing on Muslim-Americans literally sent a shudder down my spine.
A non-Muslim friend of mine tweeted: “This literally made me cry.”
Another tweeted: “I Will Stand Up For Muslim Citizens Because I Want Help When The GOP Come For ME.”
Shockingly, Trump told Yahoo News that he would consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database, or worse, mandating that they carry special identification cards that note their faith.
The reaction to this idea, fairly or unfairly, by many on social media, was to accuse Trump of wanting to mimic laws that Nazis had imposed on Jews, including requiring them to wear a gold Star of David on their clothes.
After Trump confirmed that he would set up a database for Muslim-Americans, an NBC reporter asked him point blank: “Is there a difference between requiring Muslims to register and Jews in Nazi Germany?” A clearly annoyed Trump at first refused to respond, but then told the reporter, “You tell me,” and walked away.
Just so it’s clear, Trump did not suggest that Muslim-Americans should be required to wear a symbol that would visibly identify them as Muslims, such as a gold crescent. (On the other hand, he did not rule it out.) But the Nazis do offer guidance on the practical impact of laws that target a religious minority. As The Holocaust Center notes on its website, the Nazi-era laws that required Jews to publicly identify their faith was “one of many psychological tactics aimed at isolating and dehumanizing the Jews of Europe, directly marking them as being different (i.e., inferior) to everyone else.”
There’s no doubt that making Muslims carry special religious identity cards or having to register with the government sends a clear message to other Americans that Muslims are different. That we, simply because of our faith, are less than fully American. I shudder to think where this may lead.
But Trump was not done in painting the hellish nightmare that awaits Muslims, and our country, if he’s elected president. The GOP frontrunner explained that he was open to wholesale surveillance of Muslim-Americans and warrantless searches of mosques. He even praised past NYPD policies that spied on the New York City Muslim community as “great,” despite the reality that this controversial program did not yield any leads or arrests. This means that under a Trump administration, Muslims would have fewer rights than other Americans simply because of our faith, which is no different than advocating for racial profiling of blacks or Latinos.
And Trump then doubled down on his recent proclamation that he was open to shutting down American mosques, noting he’d have “absolutely no choice” if “some bad things happen” in a mosque. Consequently, if two or three people in a mosque of say 500 did “bad things,” the entire mosque would be shuttered. It would be as outrageous as closing down a mega church because two or three members firebombed an abortion clinic. Our system of justice punishes specific wrongdoers, not all who simply share the same faith or race of a criminal.
To be blunt, these ideas by Trump on how to deal with Muslims aren’t original. They are very much akin to the ones anti-Muslim bigots have advocated in the past. Those people we can dismiss. But when the front-runner for a major political party starts parroting those alarming proposals, it’s time that we all take notice.
Trump has shown us in this campaign that he has no qualms about stoking the flames of hatred for minorities in his quest for power. He has already done this to the Latino community with his despicable comments that Mexico is sending us “rapists” and other criminals.
So it’s not surprising that Trump would use Muslim-bashing to score points because it plays well with GOP voters. In fact, a poll released earlier this week found that three-quarters of Republicans believe Islam is “at odds” with American values.
Regardless of why Trump is espousing these policies, his words must be bringing joy to ISIS. As I learned firsthand at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism earlier this year, ISIS hopes that Muslims in the West are demonized and discriminated against. Indeed, ISIS’ operatives made that very point on social media after the Paris attack, expressing their hope that Muslims in Western countries would be victims of hate crimes.
Why? It’s simple: ISIS hopes that when Muslims in the West are demonized, they will become alienated from the country in which they live. ISIS operatives believe then that their recruitment pitch that the West is at war with Islam will resonate more strongly. Consequently, ISIS is likely rooting for Trump’s proposals to become law.
All of us want Americans to be safe from ISIS. But Trump’s plan is both morally repugnant and ineffective. It doesn’t make us safer, it simply demonizes Muslim-Americans and could help ISIS recruit. That’s truly a losing combination for America.