Donald Trump's Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson refuses to rule out Muslim registry

The former ExxonMobil chief executive does not support ban of Islamic immigration but he was evasive on a faith list

Harriet Agerholm
Friday 13 January 2017 12:32
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Rex Tillerson said he would need more information about the proposed Muslim registry before giving his opinion
Rex Tillerson said he would need more information about the proposed Muslim registry before giving his opinion

Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State has refused to rule out creating a country-wide registry of Muslims.

Rex Tillerson told senators at his confirmation hearing that he did not support a “blanket-type ban” on Muslims entering the country – a suggestion repeatedly floated by the incoming President during his election campaign.

But the former chief executive of ExxonMobil refused to rule out the creation of a database of Muslims living in the United States.

“I would need to have a lot more information around how such an approach would even be constructed," he said in response to a question by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen about the idea.

Although Mr Trump has repeatedly expressed his support for a Muslim registry as part of a national security strategy, he has never clarified exactly how he would introduce it.

His staff have attempted to play down the prospect, with communications director Jason Miller denying his boss had ever advocated for the registry, despite evidence to the contrary.

Asked whether he would rule out such a database, during a November appearance on ABC News, Mr Trump said: "We want to go with watchlists. We want to go with databases. And we have no choice."

Several of the President-elect's most senior appointments have also expressed doubts about a faith-based registry.

Mr Trump's nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has said a registry would create constitutional issues.

His pick for Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly, also distanced himself from many of the incoming President's most radical immigration policies.

He said he did not support targeting individuals for law enforcement activity solely on the basis of faith.

"I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to focus on something like religion as the only factor,” the former marine corps general said, adding he did not support implementing a registry of people based on their religion.

He also emphasised the importance of building trust within the Muslim community.

"Our success in Iraq — certainly my time in Iraq — was because we reached out with people across the spectrum of society, all of whom were members of the Islamic faith," he said.

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