Happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction. . . requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens. . . .
— George Washington,1790 Letter to the Newport Jewish Congregation
In these tumultuous times it is easy to lose sight of the many things that Donald Trump has in common with those who, at times, are our adversaries, as well as those who have a different approach to human rights from what many of us believe we, in the United States, have traditionally embraced. The most obvious is President Xi Jinping of China.
Because of the focus on tariffs , and the disagreements between Mr. Xi and Mr. Trump on issues pertaining to trade, it was easy to ignore the fact that they have one very important thing in common. It is a passion that has nothing to do with trade-it has to do with Muslims. Their feelings about Muslims are identical. How they are able to give them voice differs because of the rules of the countries over which they rule.
President Xi expressed his dislike for Muslims by creating concentration camps in western China where more than 1 million Muslims are confined. According to Amnesty International, “China has intensified its campaign of mass internment, intrusive surveillance, political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation against the region’s Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups. The inhabitants study communist propaganda and give thanks to President Xi.”
In addition to reeducating the Muslims, there have also been reports of waterboarding and other forms of torture being inflicted on the inhabitants of the camps. President Xi justifies the use of the concentration camps, and the brutal treatment accorded the residents by describing them as “re-education camps,” and pointing out that the inmates are being taught useful skills.
Like President Xi, Mr. Trump has no use for Muslims. He is, however, for the time being at least, somewhat constrained in how he deals with what he would describe as the Muslim problem. He cannot imprison and reeducate Muslims, but he can, and does, frequently express his dislike and distrust of them and spout lies in order to give vent to his hatred.
Long before he became president Mr. Trump repeatedly suggested, disparagingly, that President Obama was secretly a Muslim. His dislike and mistrust of Muslims was most publicly on display when in one of the hundreds of lies he has spewed, he said that: “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered as they watched the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001.
When a supporter at a campaign rally during the run-up to the 2016 election said that the United States had a problem with Muslims, Mr. Trump not only agreed, but, when the supporter asked when the country could get rid of the Muslims Mr. Trump said: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.” He made good on his promise to the supporter.
Shortly after he was sworn into office, he issued Executive Order 13769 that became known as the Muslim ban or the travel ban. It was in place from January 27, 2017 until March 16, 2017. It was superseded by Executive order 1378, an order placing limits on entry into the United States from five majority Muslim countries.
It is not only in President Xi that Mr. Trump finds a companion spirit when the topic is Muslims. He recently hosted Viktor Orban, the right-wing prime minister of Hungary, at the White House.
In a 2017 interview with the German newspaper “Der Bild,” Mr. Orban said that the Hungarian people did not want to open their borders to foreign invaders. He said the refugees coming into Europe were not fleeing dangerous conditions in the countries from which they were fleeing, but were “Muslim invaders.”
In his opening speech in February 2019, when the campaign to select representatives to the European Parliament began, Mr. Orban told Hungarian voters they should defend Christian nations against immigration because immigration led to what he called the “virus of terrorism.” He said that those who “decide for immigration and migrants for whatever reason, in reality, are creating mixed-race nations. . . . Historic traditions in immigrant countries come to an end. . . .In such countries Christian-Muslim worlds are created with continually shrinking Christian proportions.” He said immigration: “lets in the virus of terrorism.”
During his meeting with Mr. Trump, in what should be called “the Offal Office,” Mr. Orban said: “And I would like to express that we are proud to stand together with the United States on fighting against illegal migration, terrorism and to protect and help the Christian communities all around the world.” In response Mr. Trump, a well-known member of the Christian community, praised the anti-Muslim Orban saying: “And you have been great with respect to Christian communities. You have really put a block up, and we appreciate that very much.” The “block” to which Mr. Trump was presumably referring, is the block that keeps Muslims out of Hungary.
Mr. Trump’s praise for Mr. Orban with respect to Christian communities suggests that Mr. Trump thinks the United States is a Christian nation. It is standing up for Christian communities that counts, and other communities are of less importance. Anyone observing what he has done since moving into the White House is not surprised that that’s what Mr. Trump believes, in the unlikely event he has ever given even a second’s thought to what he believes.