Paul Ryan: Banning Muslims not in the country's interest

By Allen Cone  |  June 14, 2016 at 12:30 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 14 (UPI) -- House Speaker Paul Ryan said he does not think a ban on Muslims is in the country's interest -- countering Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump's calls for a temporary shutdown on Muslims entering the United States.

"I do not think a Muslim ban in our country's interest," Ryan said at a press conference on Tuesday. "I do not think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party, but as a country. And I think the smarter way to go in all respects is to have a security test, not a religious test."

In December, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States, until the country can figure out what is happening. On Monday, two days after Omar Mateen, 29, killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, he expanded this to include all nations with a history of terrorism. Mateen was born in the United States and grew up in New York and Florida. His parents immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan.

Ryan said Tuesday that the United States is at war with radical Islam, not Muslims in general.

"Muslims are our partners," Ryan said. "The vast vast majority of Muslims in this country and around the world are moderate, they're peaceful, they're tolerant."

On Monday, Ryan asked his fellow lawmakers to observe a moment of silence in memory of the victims in Orlando.

But some Democrats walked out.

Democrats shouted "Where's the bill?" and "No leadership!" after Ryan stopped South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn from asking when gun legislation would be considered.

Rep. Jim Himes, whose district borders Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed inside an elementary school in 2012, announced Monday afternoon that he would not show up for the moment of silence this time. In a tweet, he wrote: "Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them."

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson didn't comment specifically on Trump's immigration proposal, but said denying Muslims entry into the United States would be "counterproductive" and "would not work."

"Overly simplistic suggestions that we ban people from entering this country, based on religion, or ban people from an entire region of the world is counterproductive. It will not work," Johnson said on ABC's Good Morning America. "We need to build bridges to communities, to American-Muslim communities right now, to encourage them to help us in our homeland security efforts."

He said said public vigilance is important in homegrown extremism.

"We're in an environment now of self-radicalization," Johnson said of recent attacks in the United States. "It is almost always the case that when someone self-radicalizes, someone close to them sees the sign, which is why we continue to encourage public awareness, public vigilance."

Johnson also took exception to Trump's implied comments that President Barack Obama is not defending the country.

"No. 1, I know from working with him for seven years, the president's No. 1 priority is protection of the American people, protection of the homeland," Johnson said. "I know that from my Defense Department experience and now my Homeland Security experience."

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