Muslim American groups are rejecting Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s suggestion that people espousing radical Islamic views be barred from entering the United States, calling it a move to promote himself for the presidential campaign. The remarks are only the most recent in a series of misguided attempts to burnish Jindal's 2016 credentials at the expense of the Muslim community, activists said.
“What he is doing is fearmongering,” said Haris Tarin, the director of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “This is another one of those issues where he is using fear to garner votes and the latest in a line of remarks he has made over the past few months to try to seem relevant for the 2016 elections.”
Jindal previously sparked controversy during the aftermath of the January attacks in Paris with claims that certain areas around Europe had become “no-go zones” where non-Muslims were not allowed. The politician also warned of “dangerous” Muslims “who want to come to our country but not adopt our values,” in a speech on Jan. 19, prompting some to criticize him for promoting anti-Muslim views.
While speaking to a conservative think tank on Monday, Jindal made the suggestion that the government should not permit entry to the U.S. to anyone who would “use the freedoms we give them to undermine the freedoms we grant to everyone. So in other words we shouldn’t tolerate those who want to come and try to impose some variant of, some version of Shariah law,” he said.
Jindal’s office has not yet responded to a request for further comment on the proposal.
Jindal is attempting to exploit a “common fear of Muslims” in the U.S. with an eye toward the elections, said Corey Saylor of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Do we want to protect our country from people who want to do us harm? Absolutely. But you look at criminal activity, not thought,” he said. “It's an unfortunate reality that some politicians will pick on minorities rather than offer solutions to the economic and real national security issues our country faces.”
The Louisiana governor is widely expected to make a play for the 2016 Republican ticket, with many speculating that he is after the vice presidential slot. Jindal has said he is a “couple of months away” from making a decision, though he has already begun mentioning a number of policy positions in the vein of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s manifestos during the 2012 campaign, the Guardian noted.
Jindal has also made a point of publicly countering the Obama administration on foreign policy issues and recently accused the president of not being honest about the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorists. “It’s time for our president to have the fortitude to tell the American people the truth about radical Islam and put his political base aside so we can defeat these terrorists,” he wrote in a Feb. 23 editorial for Fox News.
As the 2016 election campaign begins to ramp up, some Muslim Americans fear Jindal, a Christian who was born a Hindu, will not be alone in attacking Islam to score points. “We have seen this happen in every election cycle since 2006,” said Tarin. “Muslim issues have become the new gay issues and abortion issues. You can't get away with using the gay community for political football anymore but you can still do it with Muslims, unfortunately.”