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Opinion

Opinion: Trump’s latest howler on Muslims isn’t funny; it’s poisonous

Donald Trump on Muslims

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington on Dec. 3.

(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

Donald Trump’s outlandish and offensive statements put commentators in a bind: Does denouncing the latest nonsense from Trump dignify him and his campaign? The problem is that Trump is, for now anyway, the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination; he has been “dignified” by the potential voters who have told pollsters that he’s their choice.

So, yes, Trump deserves to be called out – and not just by journalists -- for his latest outrageous proposal: “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

That’s an actual quote from a press release issued Monday by Trump’s campaign. It applies not only to Muslims seeking to emigrate or to the U.S. or seek asylum, but also to tourists. It goes far beyond proposals that might have a disparate impact on Muslims, such as special screening of visitors from European countries who recently  traveled to war zones in the Middle East. (President Obama alluded to that idea in his address to the nation Sunday.)

The press release attempts to justify the blanket exclusion of Muslims by pointing to an online poll of U.S. Muslims that found that 25% of respondents said that “violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad.”

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Even if that were true, that means three-quarters of Muslims disagree, which comports with other studies suggesting that Muslims in the U.S. are much more assimilated and much less susceptible to extremism than Muslims in other Western countries.

But even if the poll numbers were higher, no poll can justify a religious test for citizens, immigrants or tourists. That a major-party candidate for president would propose such an appalling idea is stomach-turning. And, of course, Trump’s no-Muslims policy would be counterproductive by seeming to confirm that the U.S. is at war with all Muslims.

In his address to the nation, Obama said: “It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently.  Because when we travel down that road, we lose.  That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like [Islamic State].”

Trump apparently wasn’t listening. Or – more frightening – he heard what the president said and didn’t understand it.

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