Written by Don Byrd
In last night’s presidential townhall-style debate, moderated by Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper, audience members were able to ask questions of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. One exchange revolved around the issue of Islamophobia here at home, as well as Mr. Trump’s proposed immigration policy with respect to immigration by Muslims. It started by a question from a Muslim-American woman.
Below is that section of the debate, in case you missed it, from the NYTimes debate transcript:
RADDATZ: We now go to Gorbah Hamed with a question for both candidates.
QUESTION: Hi. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and I’m one of them. You’ve mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?
RADDATZ: Mr. Trump, you’re first.
TRUMP: Well, you’re right about Islamophobia, and that’s a shame. But one thing we have to do is we have to make sure that — because there is a problem. I mean, whether we like it or not, and we could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem. And we have to be sure that Muslims come in and report when they see something going on. When they see hatred going on, they have to report it.
As an example, in San Bernardino, many people saw the bombs all over the apartment of the two people that killed 14 and wounded many, many people. Horribly wounded. They’ll never be the same. Muslims have to report the problems when they see them.
And, you know, there’s always a reason for everything. If they don’t do that, it’s a very difficult situation for our country, because you look at Orlando and you look at San Bernardino and you look at the World Trade Center. Go outside. Look at Paris. Look at that horrible — these are radical Islamic terrorists.
And she won’t even mention the word and nor will President Obama. He won’t use the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name. She won’t say the name and President Obama won’t say the name. But the name is there. It’s radical Islamic terror. And before you solve it, you have to say the name.
RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, thank you for asking your question. And I’ve heard this question from a lot of Muslim-Americans across our country, because, unfortunately, there’s been a lot of very divisive, dark things said about Muslims. And even someone like Captain Khan, the young man who sacrificed himself defending our country in the United States Army, has been subject to attack by Donald.
I want to say just a couple of things. First, we’ve had Muslims in America since George Washington. And we’ve had many successful Muslims. We just lost a particular well-known one with Muhammad Ali.
CLINTON: My vision of America is an America where everyone has a place, if you’re willing to work hard, you do your part, you contribute to the community. That’s what America is. That’s what we want America to be for our children and our grandchildren.
It’s also very short-sighted and even dangerous to be engaging in the kind of demagogic rhetoric that Donald has about Muslims. We need American Muslims to be part of our eyes and ears on our front lines. I’ve worked with a lot of different Muslim groups around America. I’ve met with a lot of them, and I’ve heard how important it is for them to feel that they are wanted and included and part of our country, part of our homeland security, and that’s what I want to see.
It’s also important I intend to defeat ISIS, to do so in a coalition with majority Muslim nations. Right now, a lot of those nations are hearing what Donald says and wondering, why should we cooperate with the Americans? And this is a gift to ISIS and the terrorists, violent jihadist terrorists.
We are not at war with Islam. And it is a mistake and it plays into the hands of the terrorists to act as though we are. So I want a country where citizens like you and your family are just as welcome as anyone else.
RADDATZ: Thank you, Secretary Clinton.
Mr. Trump, in December, you said this. “Donald J. Trump is calling 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. We have no choice. We have no choice.” Your running mate said this week that the Muslim ban is no longer your position. Is that correct? And if it is, was it a mistake to have a religious test?
TRUMP: First of all, Captain Khan is an American hero, and if I were president at that time, he would be alive today, because unlike her, who voted for the war without knowing what she was doing, I would not have had our people in Iraq. Iraq was disaster. So he would have been alive today.
The Muslim ban is something that in some form has morphed into a extreme vetting from certain areas of the world. Hillary Clinton wants to allow hundreds of thousands — excuse me. Excuse me..
RADDATZ: And why did it morph into that? No, did you — no, answer the question. Do you still believe… TRUMP: Why don’t you interrupt her? You interrupt me all the time.
RADDATZ: I do.
TRUMP: Why don’t you interrupt her?
RADDATZ: Would you please explain whether or not the Muslim ban still stands?
TRUMP: It’s called extreme vetting. We are going to areas like Syria where they’re coming in by the tens of thousands because of Barack Obama. And Hillary Clinton wants to allow a 550 percent increase over Obama. People are coming into our country like we have no idea who they are, where they are from, what their feelings about our country is, and she wants 550 percent more. This is going to be the great Trojan horse of all time.
We have enough problems in this country. I believe in building safe zones. I believe in having other people pay for them, as an example, the Gulf states, who are not carrying their weight, but they have nothing but money, and take care of people. But I don’t want to have, with all the problems this country has and all of the problems that you see going on, hundreds of thousands of people coming in from Syria when we know nothing about them. We know nothing about their values and we know nothing about their love for our country.
RADDATZ: And, Secretary Clinton, let me ask you about that, because you have asked for an increase from 10,000 to 65,000 Syrian refugees. We know you want tougher vetting. That’s not a perfect system. So why take the risk of having those refugees come into the country?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I will not let anyone into our country that I think poses a risk to us. But there are a lot of refugees, women and children — think of that picture we all saw of that 4-year-old boy with the blood on his forehead because he’d been bombed by the Russian and Syrian air forces.
There are children suffering in this catastrophic war, largely, I believe, because of Russian aggression. And we need to do our part. We by no means are carrying anywhere near the load that Europe and others are. But we will have vetting that is as tough as it needs to be from our professionals, our intelligence experts and others.
But it is important for us as a policy, you know, not to say, as Donald has said, we’re going to ban people based on a religion. How do you do that? We are a country founded on religious freedom and liberty. How do we do what he has advocated without causing great distress within our own county? Are we going to have religious tests when people fly into our country? And how do we expect to be able to implement those?
So I thought that what he said was extremely unwise and even dangerous. And indeed, you can look at the propaganda on a lot of the terrorists sites, and what Donald Trump says about Muslims is used to recruit fighters, because they want to create a war between us.