WASHINGTON (JTA) — Donald Trump ramped up his calls to cut off Muslim entry into the United States and to monitor U.S. Muslims in the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, through his Twitter feed and speaking to news outlets on Monday, said a substantial threat existed among Muslims overseas and in the United States.
“First of all, we have to stop people coming in from Syria, we’re taking them in by the thousands,” Trump told CNN, referring to Obama administration policy on Syrian refugees, which has allowed in just over 2,000 this year and sets an annual maximum of 10,000.
“This will only get worse because we have very weak leadership,” he said, and called for more monitoring of American Muslims. “We need intelligence gathering, we have to look at the mosques, we have to look at the community.”
Omar Mateen, the attacker who killed 49 people in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday, was American born. He pledged allegiance to Islamic State during the attack. An array of Muslim-American groups has condemned the attack.
Speaking to Fox News Channel, Trump increased the number of Syrians he claims to be entering the country each year to “tens of thousands” and said they were not vetted. U.S. officials vet asylum applicants from Syria for up to two years before allowing them in.
Trump accused Muslims in the United States of not reporting terrorists in their midst.
“You have many, many people, thousands of people living in our country, people who are around them, Muslims, know who they are,” he said. “People in his community,” Trump said, referring to Mateen, “and their community, they know who the people are, almost in every case, they know who they are, they brag about it, they talk about it, they have to turn them in.”
He did not cite evidence showing that Mateen’s coreligionists in his south Florida community knew he was planning a terrorist attack. Local and federal law enforcement agencies generally work closely with Muslim community leaders to track radicals.
Trump called on President Barack Obama to resign and Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, to quit the race for not saying that “radical Islam” is at fault.
Clinton rejected the accusation.
“I have clearly said that we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people,” she told NBC. “We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism and we will. And to me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.”
Obama, speaking just prior to a briefing on the mass killing by FBI chief James Comey, described the attack as emblematic of “homegrown extremism” that “perverts” Islam, and said it was critical to confront the ideology fueling it.
“Countering this extremist ideology is increasingly going to be just as important as making sure we’re disrupting” Islamic State activities overseas,” he said.
Trump on Fox appeared to suggest that Obama knew more about radical Islamic plots than he was saying.
“He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anyone understands, it’s one or the other, and either one is unacceptable,” Trump said of Obama.
Even before the shooting, Trump was promising to make his proposed ban on Muslims a centerpiece of his campaign. On Friday, he told a conservative Christian group he would defend Israel and protect American Christians.
“We will respect and defend Christian Americans,” Trump said in an address to the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, D.C. “Christian Americans,” he added, for emphasis.
He said Americans faced dangers from Islamic extremists, and he would keep them out, promising “new immigration controls to keep us safe from radical Islamic terrorism.”
He said at the Christian forum that his policy would extend to protecting Israel as well.
“We must continue to forge our partnership with Israel and work to ensure Israel’s security,” he said.
Later Monday, in a policy speech delivered in New Hampshire, Trump doubled down on his proposal to ban Muslim entry until the United States is “in a position to properly and perfectly screen those people coming into our country.”
“The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here,” he said.