A sad day for America, thanks to Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Raleigh on Friday.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Raleigh on Friday. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Have we finally reached the “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” stage with Donald Trump?

Even the “fair and balanced” commentators at Fox News Monday night seemed to recoil at his outlandish idea to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Particularly outrageous was his twisted use of polling data to justify his idea. Muslims hate the United States, he said, quoting from slipshod polling by an anti-Muslim activist source.

“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine,” he said in a statement.

He made the mistake of trying to add legitimacy by making a flimsy attempt to say the polling of the respected Pew Research Center also supports his Muslims-hate-America thesis.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Go to the Pew site today and you’ll find this exhaustive compilation of polling and statistics about the outlook of Muslims in the United States and abroad. You’ll find little to justify the wild-eyed alarm Trump tried to stoke on Monday. Pew found in a 2011 study that 86 percent of American Muslims said suicide bombings are rarely or never a justifiable means to defend Islam from its enemies.

Most of the 1033 American Muslims polled expressed a desire to assimiliate into American life and culture. Most felt that ordinary Americans were mostly friendly or neutral toward Muslims, and only 16 percent believe the general public is hostile toward Muslim Americans.

Are there legitimate points of concern in the numbers? Sure. If Trump had been interested in raising responsible questions, he might have pointed to the fact that 21 percent of Muslims in the 2011 poll said there was a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of support for extremism among U.S. Muslims, and that 48 percent felt that U.S. Muslim leaders hadn’t done enough to speak out against extremism.

That seems an opening for an important dialogue Muslims and non-Muslims should be having in this country. But dialogue isn’t really what The Donald has in mind, it seems. Demonization is his thing. He might say dumb things, but Trump is a smart man. He knows what he said Monday was beyond the pale. And he said it anyway.

Why? Perhaps he really believes there are millions of American Muslims with some latent terror switch in their psyches, just waiting to be flipped on. Maybe he sincerely believes, as one overheated Fox commentator put it, that we all need to get our guns and get ready for the war that’s at our doorstep.

Or maybe there’s a more immediate, specific reason. Like perhaps the new poll out showing Ted Cruz overtaking Trump in Iowa. Monday’s inflammatory anti-Muslim proposal drowned what surely would have been a strong news cycle for Cruz.

Mission accomplished for Trump, I suppose. And a sad day indeed for the rest of us. Eric Frazier

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