‘We have painful memories of when we ourselves were identified, registered and tagged,’ says Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League
A prominent Jewish rights leader has said he would register as a Muslim if Donald Trump sets up a Muslim database in the US.
Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which campaigns against anti-Semitism and other bigotry, said he would register as Muslim if the database is created because of “painful memories” from when Jews were “identified, registered and tagged”.
Speaking to AFP, Mr Greenblatt said: “The day they create a registry for Muslims is the day that I register as a Muslim because of my Jewish faith, because of my commitment to our core American values, because I want this country to be as great as it always has been.
“As a Jewish community, we know what happens with litmus tests. We can remember. We have painful memories of when we ourselves were identified, registered and tagged.”
Mr Trump made various calls during his campaign to ban Muslims from entering the US and indicated he would bring in “a lot of systems” to track Muslims across the country.
Asked on MSNBC in November 2015 whether the White House should institute a database system to track Muslims in the country, Mr Trump replied: “Oh, I would certainly implement that, absolutely.”
And when later asked whether a Muslim database would be the same thing as requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany, Mr Trump simply said: “You tell me.”
Since his election victory, the billionaire appears to have rowed back on some of the remarks, releasing a statement claiming he “never advocated for any registry or system that tracks individuals based on their religion”.
But at least two prominent Trump supporters raised the prospect again this week.
Carl Higbie, a high-profile Trump supporter, claimed Japanese internment during the Second World War was a legal precedent for a potential registry of Muslim immigrants, while Kris Kobach, believed to be a key member of the President-elect’s transition team, said the Mr Trump’s policy advisers were discussing plans to establish a registry for Muslim immigrants in the US.
Mr Greenblatt, who previously worked in the White House as a special assistant to President Barack Obama, also criticised Mr Trump’s decision to hire Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist, who he said had “presided over making his former business Breitbart the platform for the ‘alt-right,’ this loose-knit group of white supremacists, anti-Semites and racists”.
The rights leader said ADL wanted to ”engage“ with Trump and his administration “on the issues they care about”, but added that they “would hold them relentlessly accountable to those issues”.
It is not the first time the Jewish community has spoken out against Mr Trump since the billionaire business was elected. Hundreds of Jewish scholars of holocaust history signed a statement calling on Americans to “mobilise in solidarity” under a Trump presidency.
Social media users have also reacted with anger to suggestions of a Muslim registry, with people vowing to register their details and the hashtag #IWillRegister trending on Twitter.