Hot on the heels of Donald Trump's address before a joint session of Congress, in which he demeaned and demonized immigrants and refugees, a senior Trump terrorism adviser made chilling remarks on whether Trump even views Islam as a religion at all.
Once again, it has been made clear that there is no “pivot” coming from this White House.
Donald Trump’s new National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, has advised against demonizing Muslims with the term “Radical Islamic Terrorism,” and noted that the term is not helpful in the fight against terrorism.
But the phrase still made a pointed appearance at Trump’s joint address to Congress, followed by a bald-faced lie:
We are also taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism.
According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.
The Justice Department did not provide any data to news organizations to back up the claim, but available data shows that more than half of those “who died in the pursuit of or were convicted of any terrorism-related offense inspired by a foreign terrorist organization” were U.S.-born, and that right-wing extremism poses a far more serious threat to Americans.
Undeterred by facts, the Trump White House continues to demonize Muslims, and now may have managed to reach a new low by refusing to even recognize Islam as a religion.
Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President for the Strategic Initiatives Group, appeared on National Public Radio the morning after Trump’s address and refused, for a second time, to state whether Trump believes Islam is a religion, saying that he did not want to get into “theological debates”:
INSKEEP: …when you were on the program, we asked if you felt the president believes Islam is a religion. The reason we have to ask that is because the previous national security advisor, Michael Flynn, made some statements suggesting he didn’t believe it was a religion. You weren’t aware then what the president’s view was — have you learned since? Does the president the president believe Islam is a religion?
GORKA: It would be nice if you actually reported things accurately. I didn’t say I refused to do anything of the sort. This is not a theological seminary, this is the White House. We are not going to get into theological debates. If the president has a certain attitude to a certain religion, that’s something you can ask him. But we’re talking about national security and the totalitarian ideologies that drive the groups that threaten America.
Legally speaking, treating Islam as anything other than a religion may seem like a non-starter, but Trump has already proven willing and able to ignore constitutional protections for religion, and the view expressed by Gorka promises more of the same bigotry, expressed in policies like the Muslim ban.