On Tuesday, just days after the deadly mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida that left 50 people dead, President Obama delivered a stern, at times outright angry speech, condemning Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump's proposal to ban (he says temporarily) Muslims from entering the United States. It was a rather surprising sight, given the distinct weariness and frustration on display when he first spoke about the shooting, and this one part of Obama's speech in particular spared no expense in detailing precisely why he found Trump's suggestion so grievous, and so threatening to an ideal vision of American values.
This is a country founded on basic freedoms. Including freedom of religion. We don't have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights are clear about that.
And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.
The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties. The very things that make us great, the very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won. And we cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.
Trump's proposal has been a matter of public knowledge for a while now — in the aftermath of the San Bernardino massacre in December, here's how he put it.
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.
Needless to say, this is the utter antithesis of the Obama approach on foreign policy, national defense, and at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, basic American values and fundamental human decency. He's absolutely right that what Trump's proposing is a discriminatory religious test, about as clear a violation of the country's core, self-professed principles as it gets.
And even if you're not moved by that kind of stigmatization and discrimination on its own, there's also the question of whether or not Trump's Muslim ban would accomplish what it set out to — would it make the United States more safe and secure from ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks? Obama's dim view of this idea was pretty apparent.
Groups like ISIL and Al-Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America. Or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion of Muslims around the world, who reject their crazy notions.
They want us to validate them, by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That's their propaganda, that's how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists' work for them.
If you're interested in watching Obama's full speech, it's definitely worth your time. It's telling that this is an issue he actually flashed some anger and passion about, considering the extent to which anti-Muslim xenophobia really does both hurt America, and embolden groups like ISIS that rely on a steady stream of new recruits who can be easily convinced the most powerful nation on Earth loathes the Islamic faith.