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Rabid Dogs and Muslim Databases: GOP’s Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Reaches Fevered Pitch

GOP anti-Muslim rhetoric heats up after the attacks in Paris.

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The rhetoric by Republican presidential candidates over resettling Syrian refugees in the United States is heating up. Ben Carson referred to some refugees as “rabid dogs.” Donald Trump says he wants to create a database to track Muslims in the United States. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said last week’s attacks in Paris, which the Islamic State claimed credit for, were part of a “clash of civilizations.”

Using this kind of language to describe Muslims is a new, growing part of the American political discourse. After the 9/11 attacks, then-President George W. Bush strained to point out that the United States was not at war with Islam; he called it a religion of “peace.” President Barack Obama has done the same.

This kind of measured language is no longer the case. With 130 people killed in the Nov. 13 attacks, Republicans have seized on fear of similar violence in the United States perpetrated by one or more of at least 10,000 Syrian refugees Obama wants to resettle in the United States this fiscal year.

The rhetoric by Republican presidential candidates over resettling Syrian refugees in the United States is heating up. Ben Carson referred to some refugees as “rabid dogs.” Donald Trump says he wants to create a database to track Muslims in the United States. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said last week’s attacks in Paris, which the Islamic State claimed credit for, were part of a “clash of civilizations.”

Using this kind of language to describe Muslims is a new, growing part of the American political discourse. After the 9/11 attacks, then-President George W. Bush strained to point out that the United States was not at war with Islam; he called it a religion of “peace.” President Barack Obama has done the same.

This kind of measured language is no longer the case. With 130 people killed in the Nov. 13 attacks, Republicans have seized on fear of similar violence in the United States perpetrated by one or more of at least 10,000 Syrian refugees Obama wants to resettle in the United States this fiscal year.

To be sure, this fear isn’t limited to the Republican Party. Forty seven Democratic lawmakers in the House broke with the president on Thursday to pass a bill adding additional security checks on refugees and suspending the president’s plan. And David Bowers, the Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, invoked then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s mass internment of more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II to justify keeping Syrians out of his town.

But the language used by Republicans is exceedingly inflammatory.

“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you’re probably going to put your children out of the way,” Carson said Thursday in Alabama, speaking about Syrian refugees. “Doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs by any stretch of the imagination, but you’re putting your intellect into motion.”

Also on Thursday, in an interview published by Yahoo News, Trump said, “We’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.” Later in the day, Trump said he would “certainly” and “absolutely” create a database of Muslims in the United States.

“There should be a lot of systems beyond databases,” Trump told NBC News. “I mean, we should have a lot of systems.”

It’s hard not to think of Nazi Germany when considering Trump’s database proposal. During his reign and World War II, Adolf Hitler’s regime created lists to track the Jewish population.

When confronted with the comparison, Trump had this to say:

Last Sunday, Rubio invoked the Nazis in a different light.

“I don’t understand it,” Rubio said when asked about Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s refusal to describe the Paris attackers’ ideology as “radical Islam.” “That would be like saying we weren’t at war with the Nazis, because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi Party but weren’t violent themselves.”

None of the candidates mentioned responded to requests for comment on their remarks.

Carleen Miller, executive director of Exodus Refugee Immigration in Indianapolis, dismissed Republican fear-mongering as overblown and noted that the refugees whom her group has helped resettle in the United States have been welcomed by locals.

“It’s insanity,” Miller told Foreign Policy, when asked Friday about the tone of Republican rhetoric. “It’s playing on people’s fears, trying to incite fear and hatred. It doesn’t represent the best of Americans.”

This week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, refused to admit a Syrian family set to arrive in his state. The family has been sent to Connecticut instead. He is part of the majority of U.S. governors who have said Syrians aren’t welcome; all but one of them is a Republican.

Islamophobia in the wake of Paris isn’t limited to U.S. shores. On Nov. 16, the Daily Mail in Britain published the cartoon below.

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It’s hard not to draw comparisons to similar ones published by the Nazis.

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Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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