WASHINGTON – The US domestic security chief on Wednesday compared current anti-Muslim sentiment to the anti-communist “Red Scare” of the 1940s and ’50s, suggesting that divisive statements by Republican presidential candidates are to blame.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is black, noted that his grandfather was forced to testify in front of the House of Representatives in 1949.
“He had to, in the height of the Red Scare, to deny he was a member of the communist party, and went on to give an impassioned statement about how American negroes are patriotic,” Johnson said at a conference in Washington about countering violent extremism.
“Efforts and dialogue that have the effect of vilifying American Muslims are counter to our homeland security interest,” he said, without specifically naming any political candidates.
Those who don’t know history “are bound to repeat it,” Johnson added.
Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have both been criticized for statements seen as hostile to Muslims.
Trump wants to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States, while Cruz has called for allowing law enforcement to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods.
The Obama administration slammed those remarks, with Secretary of State John Kerry calling them “an embarrassment to our country.”
The candidates’ views run counter to government efforts to build bridges with Muslim communities and prevent radicalization.
“The overwhelming, overwhelming majority of American Muslims … are patriotic, dedicated people who love this country and want to help us in public safety, and secure our homeland because they know it’s their homeland too,” Johnson said.