Haley: Trump’s idea ‘an embarrassment’

Ruby Abid, member of the Central Mosque of Charleston, says she feels more scared now than before the election. File/Staff

Gov. Nikki Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants, joined other Republicans in strongly condemning presidential contender Donald Trump’s call to close the borders to Muslims, calling it “an embarrassment to the Republican Party.”

“It’s absolutely un-American, it’s unconstitutional, it defies everything this country was based on and it’s just wrong,” Haley said Tuesday.

Such a ban would be against basic American freedoms, she added.

“The greatness of this country is that laws are never defined based on anyone’s religion,” Haley said, adding, “Mr. Trump has to be very careful about the things he suggests.”

During a rally Monday on the aircraft carrier Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, Trump called for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

It came in response to the two attacks in recent weeks by Islamic extremists that killed a combined 150 people in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

Haley said Trump took the nation’s alarm over those events too far.

“This is a country we all hold dear and this isn’t about ratings and it’s not about saying things that get political talking points,” she said. “We’re in a situation we’ve never been in before and we have to be very serious about this and we have to think about every aspect about it before we open our mouths and say something.”

While the comments play well with Trump’s far-right base, College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts said they could end up damaging the GOP presidential front-runner in the long run, as critics contend it would likely violate the First Amendment and betrays the nation’s principles.

“South Carolina is certainly the most conservative of the early primary states, and it probably hurts him less here than in a place like New Hampshire,” Knotts said. “In the short run, I think it gets him in the headlines.

“However, in the long run I think this damages his campaign,” Knotts added. “His rhetoric is being denounced by Democrats but also by his fellow Republican candidates and even a number of Republican leaders including (House Speaker) Paul Ryan. Republicans really want to get the White House back in 2016 and these comments raise serious questions about Trump’s electability.”

Among those in South Carolina who were critical of Trump’s comments was state Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore, who tweeted, “Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine.”

On Tuesday, Moore was declining all follow-up media interviews. But it is not the first time Moore and Trump have butted heads. Earlier this year, and based on Moore’s warnings to respect the party process, Trump signed a loyalty oath to get on the S.C. primary ballot in which he pledged to support whoever is the GOP nominee and to not launch a third-party candidacy.

In Charleston, the head of the Charleston County Democratic Party challenged his Republican counterpart, Larry Kobrovsky, to condemn Trump, comparing Trump’s attacks on Muslims to the treatment of Jews by Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Kobrovsky is of Lithuanian Jewish descent.

“Please do not hesitate or delay in denouncing these comments,” Brady Quirk-Garvan said in an open letter to Kobrovsky. “As a man who has studied history I know that you are aware of the perils that silence can bring when politicians make such hateful, divisive, and fascist statements.”

Kobrovsky said the comparison was insulting. “I find it reprehensible to use my ethnicity to score political points,” he said.

At Charleston’s Central Mosque, Muslims countered Trump’s latest broadside on their religion with an invitation to visit their house of worship and learn about Islam.

“We will welcome him with an open heart and open arms as a friend,” Ruby Abid, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen said Tuesday.

In an attempt to bring together members of the community, local Muslims are holding an open house at the mosque at King and Romney streets from 1-3 p.m. Saturday for members of the community to discuss the “current situation of Islamophobia.”

“It is a religion of peace,” she said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551.