U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on April 6 that statements made against Muslims in the U.S. were comparable to the anti-communist Red Scare of the 1950s.
In recent years, an escalating number of terrorist incidents, combined with wars in the Middle East and the refugee crisis in Europe, have led to an escalating climate of fear, Johnson said at a conference in the District of Columbia about countering violent extremism, according to the Times of Israel.
Johnson, who has led the Department of Homeland Security since 2013, is in charge of protecting U.S. citizens against threats from at home and abroad.
Without naming any specific people, Johnson pointed out that presidential candidates who have made Islamophobic statements are harming security efforts instead of helping them.
“Efforts and dialogue that have the effect of vilifying American Muslims are counter to our homeland security interest,” Johnson said, according to the Times of Israel. “The overwhelming, overwhelming majority of American Muslims … are patriotic, dedicated people who love this country and want to help us in public safety, and secure our homeland because they know it’s their homeland too.”
In December, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called on the U.S. to ban all Muslims from entering the country in the wake of terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, according to The Washington Post. Additionally, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said that police forces should “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods to guard against radicalization.
Johnson said these statements only increase tensions, and likened them to the Red Scare that took place during the Cold War after World War II, in which hundreds were accused of being communists and many were jailed or had to leave their jobs. His own grandfather testified in front of the House of Representatives in 1949 to deny communist affiliations.
“He had to, in the height of the Red Scare, to deny he was a member of the communist party, and went on to give an impassioned statement about how American negroes are patriotic,” Johnson said, according to the Times of Israel.