Trump condemned over US ‘Muslim database’ call

Published: Saturday 21st November 2015 by The News Editor

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Donald Trump’s support for a government database to track Muslims in the US has drawn sharp rebukes from his Republican presidential bid rivals as they try to distance themselves from a proposal which legal experts say is unconstitutional.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush called the prospect of a registry “abhorrent”.

Meanwhile, Florida senator Marco Rubio said the idea is “unnecessary” and not something Americans would support.

T exas senator Ted Cruz, who has largely avoided criticising Mr Trump throughout the 2016 campaign, said: “I’m not a fan of government registries of American citizens.”

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

The criticism came after Mr Trump, the real estate mogul who is the Republican presidential front-runner, voiced support for a mandatory database for Muslims in the US while campaigning in the key early voting state of Iowa the previous day.

Mr 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, Mr Trump said: “They have to be.”

Asked whether Muslims would have to register at mosques, Mr Trump said: “Different places. You sign up at different places. But it’s all about management.”

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

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

Mr Trump 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.

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

The Islamic State group (IS) has claimed responsibility for attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. The attacks have raised fears in the US and prompted calls for new restrictions on refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.

The US House of representatives passed legislation this past week essentially barring Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the United States.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has slotted the bill for possible Senate consideration, though it’s unclear whether the chamber could get enough votes to override a threatened veto by Mr Obama.

The Republican candidates’ unified criticism of Donald Trump was striking.

His rivals have been wary of alienating Mr Trump’s supporters, but are increasingly concerned that he has held his grip on the race deep into autumn.

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.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, at a Tennessee rally Friday evening, said, “Mr Trump has attacked Mexican immigrants, he’s attacked women, and now he’s attacking Muslim Americans. At some point you have to ask yourself, is that the kind of country we are?”

Mrs Clinton’s main Democratic rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, said Mr Trump’s words were “outrageous and bigoted.”

US vice president Joe Biden, who gave the White House’s weekly internet and radio address while Obama was in Asia, said IS wants to “manufacture a clash between civilisations” and to turn away refugees – mostly women, children, orphans, torture survivors – and “say ‘there is no way you can ever get here’ would play right into the terrorists’ hands”.

Published: Saturday 21st November 2015 by The News Editor

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