As US president-elect Donald Trump seeks to allay fears of Muslims being targeted by hate groups after his election, his advisers or people claiming to be advising his transition team have sent exactly the opposite message.
Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, who is advising the Trump transition team on immigration, said the administration is drafting a plan to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.
Carl Higbie, a former Navy SEAL with the pro-Trump Great America political action committee, supported the registry programme, comparing it to one that the US ran for its Japanese Americans during World War II which led to their internment.
Trump and his transition team have not refuted Kobach’s claims yet, but have denied reports that known Muslim-baiter and conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, who is also a former Pentagon official, is an adviser.
Trump has said he will set up a commission on radical Islam and introduce an ideological screening test and “extreme vetting” for visitors to the US from countries affected by terrorism, as determined by the department for Homeland Security.
But asked about the spate of hate attacks against Muslims, blacks, Jews and other minorities by people claiming to be his supporters, Trump has said, “I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, ‘Stop it’.”
Perhaps his advisers didn’t hear him.
Trump has not spoken publicly about a registry of the kind suggested by Kobach, who told Reuters in an interview the president-election’s policy advisers had discussed drafting a proposal for his — presumably Trump’s — consideration.
The registry they propose to reinstate is one that Kobach had helped design during President George W Bush’s term in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks as a shocked and angry nation struggled to deal with the tragedy.
Under that programme, which was called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), visitors from countries identified as carrying “higher risk” were subjected to interrogation and finger-printing on arrival.
And some non-citizen males over the age of 16 from some countries affected by extremism were required to register themselves with the government and check in periodically at designated offices, so that they could be tracked.
The system was discontinued in 2011 under pressure from civil rights groups over its inherently discriminatory nature. The groups alleged it targeted Muslims. The country had also grown more secure by then, after 10 years without a repeat attack.
But talk of renewed vigilance against terrorism spiked in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attack in December 2015 — also because it came in the middle of what would go on to be called one of the most deeply divisive presidential races.
Trump began talking about special measures against Muslims immediately after, unleashing a fresh round of Islamophobia that has continued unabated since, and that has led to hate attacks against the community by those emboldened by his victory.