WATCH: 'Meet the Press' Debates Whether or Not Islamophobia Has Come to the U.S.?

'You know, we talked about special IDs for Muslims. Would that be similar to the yellow Stars of David that many Jewish people had to wear in Nazi Germany?'

'Meet the Press,' round table November 22, 2015.
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NBC Transcript:

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CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We're going to talk about whether the political response to the ISIS attacks has boiled over into Islamophobia. To have that conversation, I'm also joined by Arsalan Iftikhar, he's a Human Rights lawyer and a senior editor of The Islamic Monthly, who is also writing a book about Islamophobia in America. The panel is also back, as well. Arsalan, how tough has it been to be a Muslim-American this week?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

Well, Chuck, in the seven days since the Paris attacks, we've seen mosques attacked here in the United States in Omaha, Nebraska; Pflugerville Texas. There was a 43-year-old man in Saint Petersburg, Florida, who was arrested by the F.B.I. for saying that he's going to shoot and kill every single Muslim child that he sees. And Southwest Airlines actually had two or three flights where Muslims were taken off of the flights simply because they were Muslim. And so, it's pretty much been par for the course since September 11th.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play-- we've seen all the Republican rhetoric this time, I want to play for sort of a comparison, what you've heard today from some of these Republican Presidential candidates and what we heard from the last Republican President on the issue of Islam, here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH

The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO

That would be like saying we weren't at war with Nazis because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party but weren't violent themselves. THis is a clash of civilizations.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH

When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women there is no clash of civilizations.

DR. BEN CARSON

If there's a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH

'Meet the Press,' Sunday November 22, 2015.

We respect the faith, and we welcome people of all faiths in America. And we're not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Arsalan, what did the Bush White House do behind the scenes to make sure they got this right?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

Well, I think, you know, what George W. Bush said after 9/11 in terms of ensuring solidarity with American Muslims, sadly, he'd be considered an outcast in today's 2015 Republican Party. You know, we see people like Donald Trump saying that we should have a database of all American Muslims.

I wonder if the two Muslim members of Congress, my buddy, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, would they be in that database with Mohammed Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, funniest guy in America, Dave Chappelle? You know, we talked about special IDs for Muslims. Would that be similar to the yellow Stars of David that many Jewish people had to wear in Nazi Germany? Would it be a yellow crescent this time?

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Would it be helpful if you, if some Muslim community leaders got together with these candidates and actually requested a sit-down to have a conversation to tone down the rhetoric, ask them specifically to tone down the rhetoric and has anything like that taken place that you know of?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

You know, Kathleen, you know, during the 2008 Presidential campaign when there were whisperings in the campaigns going around of Barack Obama being some sort of crypto-Muslim Manchurian candidate-- you didn't see anybody, you know, speak out against that until Colin Powell actually came on this show to tell his fellow Republicans to shut the hell up.

You know, we need allies from outside of the community, we need people to speak on the behalf of American principles of tolerance and pluralism. You know, people expect Muslims to speak out. But it's important for allies to speak out, as well.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Of course, I agree with-- sorry, I agree with that, I was just simply thinking that if you put those people on the spot, if they refuse to sit down and have a conversation, that's one statement unto itself.

CHUCK TODD:

Almost like a forum.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Yeah, exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

Maybe a public forum?

KATHLEEN PARKER:

A public forum.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

Well, I wonder if this forum will take place in, you know, these American-Muslim internment camps which I'm sure is going to be the next step in--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Maybe right here.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

--the rhetoric-- and I hope you all come visit me in these internment camps because it's getting absurd. I mean, it's absolutely, you know, beyond the pail that, you know, when Ben Carson says that Muslims should be allowed to be President, you know, he clearly hasn't read the Religious Test Clause of The Constitution.

And so, in many cases, not only should these people not be allowed to run for President, they should retroactively fail 8th grade social studies for not knowing the Constitution.

RON FOURNIER:

Another public forum is Twitter and you asked on your Twitter feed I think just yesterday, why is it that so many people put the French flag in their avatar, but very few people put the flag of an African Mali in their Twitter feed? You answer that question. Why do you think so few people have rallied behind Mali in that public of a way?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

I mean, I think that race has a lot to do with it. I mean, you have a black predominantly Muslim country in Mali, which is 92% Muslim and then you have a white European country like France. And obviously, you know, we're horrified at the Paris terrorist attacks, but there are terrorist attacks that occur every single day.

Let's not forget in the same week as the Paris terrorist attack, there were suicide bombings by ISIS in Beirut, Lebanon, in Baghdad, Iraq, you know, but we never saw any sort of, you know, moral outrage--

HELENE COOPER:

Don't forget Nigera.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

And Nigeria, as well.

RON FOURNIER:

Is it simply racism, though? If I, for one, had the French flag, I didn't even think of putting the Mali flag in my avatar, what does it say about me?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

Well, I have to give Facebook credit here, because Facebook created a photo tool for the people of France--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

That made it easy.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

It made it a lot easier, but again, we have to have these conversations. But you know, what's most important is that we're letting this talk by these Republican Presidential frontrunners, you know, go unchallenged. When Ben Carson--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

That's--

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

When Ben Carson refers to refugees as "rabid dogs," and you know, Donald Trump talks about "these people" and "I'm going to surveille people and I'm going to make them have special IDs and databases." And people are cheering, when you don't see any pushback, any meaningful pushback, it allows it to go unchallenged.

TOM BROKAW:

Well, another thing that I think that happens within the Republican Party, apart from those who are running for President, there's been no voice on that side to challenge their own Presidential candidates. And the President, I think, has made a mistake by just saying, "We know what we're doing, trust us."

When actually, there's palpable fear out there. He ought to engage the American people in a dialogue that goes beyond just some kind of a statement from Far Off Asia, when he's talking about what we can do.

HELENE COOPER:

I think, though, there's also a responsibility in the news media to make sure that we're covering these events, we're covering this stuff the way it is happening.

TOM BROKAW:

Right.

HELENE COOPER:

For instance, there's still no link between Syrian refugees and the attack in Paris, okay? Nobody is-- these guys are Belgian and French nationals, they're not Syrian refugees, we don't have a link to that yet. And yet, all of this rhetoric, I would love to see the press and I'd like to see the media really--

CHUCK TODD:

There's an untested passport. There's a rumor of a passport

HELENE COOPER:Right but that's it, that's it.

TOM BROKAW:Well I agree, listeen. You know, when Donald Trump talks about security or Ben Carson, we're talking about three-year-old orphans who are orphans and refugees because of American policy.

HELENE COOPER:

Yes.

RON FOURNIER:

Excuse me, but if this week is a reflection of how our readers are going to respond to the next 9/11, I really think that we're one major hit away from a national unraveling. And I think of Bill Clinton who talked about in times of insecurity, people would rather have a leader who is wrong and strong than right and weak.

Well, we have a lot leaders right now, especially on the right side of the paradigm, who are trying to pretend that they're strong and they're very, very wrong.

CHUCK TODD:

Arsalan, I'm going to give you the last word.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

You know, it's important to keep in mind, there's a recent poll that happened in Iowa amongst Republican registered voters, which show that 33% of Iowa Republicans believe that Islam should be illegal in America today, against the law, we still--

RON FOURNIER:

Well, how do we change this? It's public opinion. Overall, 56% of Americans say it doesn't match American values, so is it an education campaign?

HELENE COOPER:

Re-education camps for adult Americans.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

Let's not forget 59% of Americans today believe that Barack Obama is still a Muslim. I feel that Jerry Seinfeld needs to pop on and say, "Not that there's anything wrong with that." "Muslim" has become a slur in America today. (LAUGH)

CHUCK TODD:

It is. Well, Arsalan Iftikhar, thanks for coming.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR:

Good to see you.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll have you again, appreciate it. We're going to have more of this conversation, I promise you, guys. When we come back, though, how much do we have to fear about ISIS using the Syrian refugee crisis to slip terrorists in the United States? The holes in our defense are not refugees, it's Visas, I'll explain.