Following Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., the Pentagon said anti-Muslim rhetoric undermines national security.
"Anything that bolsters ISIL's narrative and pits the United States against the Muslim faith is certainly not only contrary to our values but contrary to our national security," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said during a news briefing on Dec. 8, according to Reuters. ISIL is also often referred to as ISIS, Daesh or the Islamic State.
Cook did not mention Trump, stating that he did not want to get involved in domestic political matters.
Thousands of service members who self-identify as Muslims work at the Pentagon, assisting local authorities to battle Islamic State extremists in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Defense Department data show that 3,817 active-duty members and 2,079 members of the National Guard and reserve identify their faith as Islam. There could be more as the identification of one’s faith is voluntary.
"There are, again, men and women in uniform today of the Muslim faith who are serving this country patriotically," Cook said. "Anything that tries to challenge American values on this would be certainly something of concern."
"I'm doing good for the Muslims," Trump told CNN on Dec. 9. "Many Muslim friends of mine are in agreement with me. They say, 'Donald, you brought something up to the fore that is so brilliant and so fantastic.'"
Trump added that “one of the most important people in the Middle East” thanked him for his proposal. He did not reveal this person's name, but said they called him and said, “Donald, you’re doing a great service.”
"I have many friends who are Muslims," Trump said. "They're phenomenal people. They are so happy at what I'm doing."
"I love the Middle East," he added. "I love the people of the Middle East."
Trump clarified in the interview that his plan to ban Muslims entering the U.S. has been misrepresented and that it may not last long.
"It could go quickly, but it's a subject that has to be discussed," he said, adding that Muslim diplomats and athletes would not be banned.
Amidst criticism from Democrats and fellow Republicans, amongst others, Trump contends that the public is in agreement with his proposal.
“The group that is not criticizing me is the public," he said. "The public agrees with what I said. They saw those two animals last week go out and shoot people [in San Bernardino].”