On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This is not a departure from Trump’s earlier rhetoric but its logical conclusion—but what logic is that, exactly?
This notion that something is going on is one that Trump has returned to repeatedly in media appearances and at campaign events. Often, he will knowingly and conspiratorially raise one or both of his ample and grotesque eyebrows. Something is going on, and you and I both know what it is, even if we can’t say it out loud.
What Trump does better than anyone, though, is to make the most blustering of statements sound substantial to someone who might not know better, referring to evidence that seems rational and empirical even if it is not actually so. (Here we should set aside whatever qualms we might have about the idea that these values are even meaningful in as chaotic a context as a presidential election.)
According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population.
Now, despite his obsession with polls and crowd attendance, Trump does not actually say what he means. And actually, as the Washington Post points out, this may be because such Pew Research does not exist.
In 2011, 81 percent of Muslim Americans said that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians are never justified. In November, Pew Research found that people in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations overwhelmingly expressed negative views of ISIS.
Most recently, a poll from the Center for Security Policy released data showing “25% of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad” and 51% of those polled “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.”
The poll Trump is citing here was released just this summer, The Intercept reports, at which point the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University did a little digging and found that the poll had been conducted as a “non-probability based, opt-in online survey.” That is to say: it is unscientific and has no statistical validity.
The organization that commissioned the poll, the Center for Security Policy, has wound in and out of favor in the Republican establishment. In 2011, its founder, Frank Gaffney Jr., was banished from the Conservative Political Action Committee after claiming that two CPAC board members—including Grover Norquist!—were secretly working for the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaffney, who the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as an anti-Muslim extremist, is obsessed with what he calls “civilizational jihad” or “creeping Sharia.”
“We’re witnessing not just the violent kind of jihad that these Islamists believe God compels them to engage in, but also, where they must for tactical reasons, a more stealthy kind, or civilizational jihad as the Muslim Brotherhood calls it,” Gaffney told Newsmax in 2011. “We’re witnessing that playing out, not only in places in the Middle East but also in Europe, in Australia, in Canada and here in the United States as well.”
Later that year, he proposed on the Center for Security Policy’s website the need for a new and improved House Un-American Activities Committee, but for jihadi sympathizers. “Such a panel needs a mandate to investigate in particular the extent to which the Obama administration’s anti-American activities reflect the success of the toxic Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan) in penetrating and subverting both U.S. government agencies and civil institutions.”
After a few years in exile, Gaffney—who believes that Clinton aide Huma Abedin may be a Muslim Brotherhood operative—and the Center for Security Policy returned to the fold, under Ted Cruz’s aegis. Last year, the Center was not only back at CPAC but was listed as a contributing sponsor.
In September, the Center for Security Policy put out an ebook called “Cut Down the Black Flag: A Plan to Defeat the Islamic State,” which, according to a National Security Network policy brief on Islamaphobic and anti-refugee politics, cites Wikipedia extensively.
“The civilization jihadists do a better job of blending in and are subverting our culture from within,” the CSP report reads. “They are part of the same enemy [as the Islamic State and other terrorist groups] and even more insidious as they do not proclaim their goals openly.”
At a campaign event in South Carolina on Tuesday, Trump sang the praises of the “very highly respected” Center for Security Policy as he read through his policy proposal to bar Muslims from entering the United States. “I know them, actually,” he said, smiling and showing his teeth.