News Americas

Thursday 18 January 2018

'Where does it stop?' - Obama slams Trump's 'dangerous mindset' on America's Muslims

Barack Obama. Photo: AP
Barack Obama. Photo: AP
David Usborne

David Usborne

A visibly exasperated President Barack Obama has torn into the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, for demonstrating what he called a "dangerous mindset" in the wake of the Orlando massacre, saying it peddles the notion that "entire religious communities" are complicit in violence.

"We've gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it," Obama offered.

"We've seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens and it has been a shameful part of our history...This is not the America we want, it does not reflect our democratic ideals. It won't make us more safe, it will make us less safe."

"Where does it stop?" Obama demanded to know in an unusually raw appearance before the press with top aides and officials to discuss the fight against Isis that has become dominated by the response to the Orlando shooting.

"We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence," Obama said. Trump this week appeared to double down on his proposals to close borders to Muslims and has also reiterated his support for more intrusive police monitoring of the entire Muslim-American community.

"Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith?" Mr Obama said, before going on: "Do Republican officials actually agree with this?"

It was Obama's most aggressive assault on Trump yet, apparently triggered also by the Republican candidate's continued contention that the president is somehow missing in action on the fight against terror because of his failure to utter the words "radical Islam".

Obama, who cancelled plans to campaign today with Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin and will instead head to Orlando to pay tribute to victims, called the argument a "political distraction" that has no basis in his administration's record of attempting to thwart extremism and protect the country. "It's a political talking point, not a strategy," he said.

"What exactly would using this label accomplish; what exactly would it change?" he asked. "Would it make terrorists less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring along more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served to say this? The answer is none of the above."

What Obama did not directly address were remarks made by Trump on Monday that seemed to suggest his failure to say "radical Islam" was because he harboured secret sympathy for terrorists.

Before letting loose on his Republican critics, Obama again laid out his strategy to defeat Isis, insisting that while the campaign was difficult, progress had been made, notably in Iraq.

"Enough talking about being tough on terrorism," Obama said, adding his reluctance to use the same phraseology as Trump was because he did not want to encourage the notion that the West is at war with Islam. "To do so would play directly into the hands of Isis."

Irish Independent

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