US religious freedom envoy blasts campaign rhetoric against Muslims

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David Saperstein

David Saperstein

David Saperstein

David Saperstein

ROME (RNS) The top U.S. official for international religious freedom on Friday (Dec. 11) decried presidential campaign rhetoric as “deeply problematic” for the country’s foreign policy and “not helpful” to efforts by the government to mobilize Islamic communities.

During a trip to Rome for a conference on Christian persecution, David Saperstein, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, did not cite Donald Trump by name but took aim at recent controversial comments by presidential candidates.

“I think the president’s been clear that some of the language that has emerged in the presidential campaign so far has been problematic, and some of the proposals about barring people on the basis of religion is deeply problematic to America’s values and interests,” he told journalists.

“I think that some of the proposals and rhetoric do complicate our foreign policy activities and goals. If we are trying to mobilize a vast majority of Muslims who reject what the extremists in the name of Islam are doing, in their violent activity, this is not helpful,” the ambassador added.

Attention worldwide has focused on statements made by Trump, the GOP presidential hopeful who on Monday (Dec. 7) called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Those comments sparked international condemnation and prompted more than 530,000 British residents to petition their government to ban Trump from entering the country based on hate crime legislation. The U.K. government must now consider debating the petition in Parliament.

While Saperstein would not be drawn into specifics on the Trump plan, he said every country has the right to bar people from admission to their country if they believe the individual would pose a danger to citizens.

“If someone is engaging in hate speech and divisive speech, and speech that is calling for violence, then that would be a criteria that one can use to make these determinations,” he said.

(Rosie Scammell covers the Vatican for RNS)

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  • ben in oakland

    Well, thank god for Christian bigotry against muslims.

    IT takes away from the time they can devote to beating up gay people.

  • Fun Fact

    Fun Fact:
    In some places you might be considered a Muslim. Do you still think it’s a good idea to wage a war against Islam? Suddenly I’m thinking about the end of one of the ‘Planet of the Apes” movies…

    I won’t give a citation here. Gonna make you work for it.
    But I’ll give you a hint: Ask your elected officials or NGO. Now you just have to find the right ones.


  • Jack

    Count me out on bigotry toward either.

    As for Muslims, the envoy is absolutely right. If our goal is to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world in the fight against terrorism, we need not only to obliterate the terrorists, but reach out to the majority of Muslims who are not terrorists, who don’t support terrorism, who deeply oppose the radical Islamism which fuels today’s terrorism, and who often put their lives on the line in their opposition to such terrorism.

    But more than that, our country has witnessed an extraordinary thing — the very groups that hate each other in their respective home countries, ie Muslims in Pakistan and Hindus in India, get along in America. It testifies to what an amazing country we all live in, something we should be proud of.