Priest reminds candidate that Catholics faced similar treatment in 19th century
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump doubled down on his call to stop the immigration of Muslims into the United States until there is more clarity about the causes of terrorism.
Trump’s call on Monday for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on” was met with broad condemnation. Republican and Democratic leaders, as well as representatives of various religions, criticized the view as un-American. Trump made the statement in response to recent terrorism in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
“This is religious stereotyping at its worst and should be rejected by every Catholic, indeed every Christian. For Jesus asks us in the clearest terms possible to care for the stranger: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me,'” said Jesuit Father James Martin, author of The Abbey and editor-at-large of America magazine.
Father Martin, writing on Facebook, said that American Catholics in particular should reject such stereotyping because they themselves were subjected to “this precise kind of treatment in past centuries.”
“We were the ‘Catholic menace,’ dangerous because we were controlled by Rome, unfit to be considered good citizens. Such anti-Catholicism gave rise to the Know Nothing Party and numerous incidents of anti-Catholic violence,” he said.
But Trump was not backing down. In an interview with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Trump cited Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s classification of thousands of Japanese, Germans and Italians living in the United States during the war as “enemy aliens.” He said he was not endorsing something as drastic as the Japanese interment camps.
“This is a president highly respected by all; he did the same thing,” said Trump, who has been leading the pack of GOP hopefuls for the Republican presidential nomination. The United States was at war at the time, he said, and it is now “at war with radical Islam.”
But David B. Woolner, Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, said that “virtually all historians and legal scholars agree that FDR’s decision to allow the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War was a grievous error, a clear violation of their human rights and an unfortunate response to a kind of war hysteria that gripped the country — especially among citizens of the West Coast in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack.”
In a statement, Trump said that until the United States is able to “determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told the Associated Press that the real estate mogul’s proposed ban would apply to “everybody,” including Muslims seeking immigration visas as well as tourists seeking to enter the country.
His campaign did not immediately respond to questions about how a determination of someone’s religion might be made by customs and border officials, AP said.
John L. Esposito, professor of religion and international affairs and of Islamic studies at Georgetown University, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that Trump takes his positions because he knows they will improve his ratings. He added that Trump is “fueling Islamophobia” and warned that his “hands are going to be bloodied if there is blood spilled.”
Father Martin insisted, “Whether done to Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims (or any other religious group), blaming an entire religion for the sins of a few who claim the label of that religion is always wrong. And sinful.”