I am a Rabbi who stands with Muslims, Jews, and other concerned citizens in urging President Obama to dismantle the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) — the Bush-era “Muslim registry” that already exists — before President-elect Donald Trump can expand it to further isolate and target the Muslim community.
As an American, the very idea of creating such a registry is an affront to what my country has always stood for. There is nothing more unjust and offensive to our core values of freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, than to target and threaten a segment of people based on their religious beliefs or their national origin. I believe this cuts to the heart of who we are as a country and the very values upon which we were founded. We cannot let fear mongering betray our fundamental identity as a nation.
Speaking as a Jew, the idea of a Muslim Registry chills me to the bone. Bend the Arc Jewish Action’s “We’ve Seen This Before” campaign was organized specifically to fight back against Donald Trump’s spreading of fear and hatred. It is not an overstatement to say that a registry like this could threaten a people’s very being. So, we will continue to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, because we know what a list like this can lead to, and it must not happen here.
To those who consider Muslims “outsiders”, it is crucial to understand that Muslims have been a part of the American story from the very beginning. Millions of our Muslim neighbors in the US include not only first, second and third generation Americans, but also people who share in our common story and in building this country.
One in four American Muslims are African-American, many of whose ancestors arrived on these shores not as tourists, refugees or immigrants — but as enslaved people. Historians estimate that approximately ten percent of those who were brought to the colonies as enslaved people arrived as Muslims. Islam in America is not something new — it is a part of all of us and it is who we are as a people.
When Muslims are singled out, targeted for violence, treated with disrespect and not recognized as members of our society, it is an attack on all religions. It is an attack on Christians, on Mormons, on Quakers, on atheists. It is an attack on Jews. And when our country takes legal steps to mistreat or punish mistreat any people based on their religion or national origin, is an attack on the American idea itself.
Now is the time for people of conscience from all walks of life to stand up for a vision that says that the purpose of government is not to persecute and attack those who are most vulnerable in our society — but to protect and defend those who are singled out. And if the government refuses to protect the vulnerable, the people must protect each other.
President Obama: you have the power to throw a significant roadblock in the way of Donald Trump’s plans to create a Muslim Registry. We call upon you to dismantle the NSEERS program before it’s too late. Do the right thing. Act now.
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block is the director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, a national organization inspired by Jewish values and the steadfast belief that Jewish Americans, regardless of religious or institutional affiliations, are compelled to create justice and opportunity for Americans.