A spokesperson for Donald Trump has claimed the president-elect “never advocated” for a registry that tracks individuals based on their religion, despite a video showing him endorsing precisely such a plan.
The Republican was captured on film in November 2015 describing a network that would register and trace Muslims living across the US.
Yet Mr Trump's transition team communication director Jason Miller released a statement on Thursday saying: “President-elect Trump has never advocated for any registry or system that tracks individuals based on their religion, and to imply otherwise is completely false."
In 2015 Mr Trump said he said he would bring in “a lot of systems” that could track Muslims, after signing them up in various places across the country.
When asked by NBC whether Muslims would be legally obliged to register on the database, Mr Trump replied: “They have to be, they have to be.”
Asked to confirm whether he would introduce the policy against Muslims if he won the White House he said: “I would certainly implement that, absolutely.”
Mr Trump said it was possible to bring in the scheme because he would implement “good management”.
The idea of a Muslim register was one of the most controversial issues of the Trump campaign and the billionaire already appears to have rowed back on some of his statements.
A key member of the Republican’s transition team caused consternation on Wednesday when he said that Mr Trump's policy advisors were discussing plans for tracking Muslim immigrants living in the US.
Kris Kobach, the secretary of state for Kansas, has helped devise strict immigration laws in a number of US states and claims to have participated in regular conference calls with Mr Trump’s immigration advisers.
The anti-immigrant hardliner also said the Trump administration could push ahead quickly with the construction of a US-Mexico border wall — without seeking congressional approval first.
The Muslim registration scheme is reminiscent of a programme launched in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) which required thousands of Arab and Muslim visitors and temporary US residents to register with the state.
NSEERS – of which Mr Kobach was a key architect – was abandoned in 2011 after it was criticised for unfairly targeting immigrants from Muslim-majority nations.
It is not yet clear whether Mr Kobach will have a role in the Trump administration, but he is tipped for the role of Attorney General.
The Muslim registration scheme would reportedly hand Muslims a form of identification that notes their religion and parallels between Mr Trump’s proposals and the Nazi’s treatment of Jews have been drawn.
He also confirmed his plans to “build a wall”, although he added that some parts of the barrier could be a fence.
The President-elect is reported to be considering appointing the vice-president of a think-tank that has said Muslims are infiltrating the American government as his deputy security advisor.
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