President-elect Donald Trump has selected Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general of the United States. His appointment is drawing the ire of many, mostly over Sessions’ history of accusations of racism. But, he’s also a staunch supporter of another of Trump’s most controversial policies: his proposed ban on Muslims.
“Sessions support on Trump’s ban on Muslims traveling to America is extremely disconcerting. America has a long tradition of welcoming immigrants, not rejecting them because of their faith,” Robert McCaw, the Director of Government Affairs at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told Vocativ. McCaw said that Sessions’ appointment would “signal a departure from the Department of Justice and FBI characterizing acts of violent ideologically motivated terrorism purported by individuals who identify as Muslim as now being Islamic extremism.” Presidents Obama an d George W. Bush both stressed that terrorists acting under the guise of Islam are misinterpreting the faith. (Bush said terrorists “hijacked a great religion.”)
Trump also made two other significant appointments late this week, both of whom made headlines for their past comments on Islam: Michael Flynn, as the national security advisor and Lieutenant General Mike Pompeo as CIA director. Flynn has compared Islam to “cancer” and said “fear of Islam is rational” and “Islamophobia is an oxymoron.” Pompeo has said that Muslim Americans who don’t speak out about terrorism are potentially complicit in these acts.
Senator Sessions, a close advisor throughout the Trump campaign, has expressed very similar views. Sessions, who has served in the Senate since 1997, became the first Republican senator to endorse Trump, and was one of the few Republican senators who supported Trump’s proposed Muslim ban. He also did not vote in favor of a 2015 provision that the U.S. “must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion.” Politico reported that he called this proposal, “radical” and said he “railed against it for about 30 minutes” during the committee hearing.
In December 2015, he told Steve Bannon on the Breitbart News radio show in response to Trump’s proposed Muslim ban that Trump’s “treading on dangerous ground because Americans are so deeply committed to freedom of religion. That is a major part of who we are. But at the same time, we’re in an age that’s very dangerous and we’re seeing more and more persons enter and a lot of them have done terrorist acts. And a lot of them believe it’s commanded by their religion. Their faith commands them to do these things. So I think it’s appropriate to begin to discuss this.”
In July 15, in response to the attacks in Nice, France, Sessions wrote in a statement that France, “has the largest Muslim population of any country in Western Europe. Unfortunately, many have resisted assimilation, rejecting the French culture, choosing to separate themselves rather than integrate. As we have seen over and over again, this leads to more radicalism and violence.” He also said, “While limited, carefully vetted immigration is in our national interest, the push for open borders and ever higher levels of immigration increasingly isolates new immigrants and threatens our security.”
On March 22, in response to the Brussels attacks, Sessions released another a statement saying, “Clearly, the refugee and migration policies of Europe and the United States must be thoughtfully reconsidered,” and that “it cannot be the policy of the United States that millions of foreign nationals are able to demand permanent entry into this country as refugees or asylees, particularly when our law enforcement and intelligence communities cannot adequately screen these individuals for security risks.”