Trump no longer supports Muslim ban, says Mike Pence

Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence.  

Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence said his presidential running mate Donald Trump no longer wanted to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Mr. Trump had last year called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims”. He later refined this position to “extreme vetting” of people coming from places inflicted by terrorism, but the controversy stirred by his call continues to dominate the presidential campaign.

“Of course not,” Mr. Pence said on Thursday, when asked whether the proposal for banning Muslims still remained. Last month, Mr. Pence had mentioned that the restriction based on the geographical origin of potential immigrants would apply also to people of other faiths, including Christians and Jews. Earlier in the campaign, Mr. Trump had called for U.S. measures to protect Christians persecuted in territories controlled by the Islamic State.

“If you were a Christian from Syria… one of the hardest things you could do was to get into the United States. If you were a Muslim from Syria, it was one of the easier places to come into the United States from,” Mr. Trump said in June, citing statistics that suggested only about 0.3 per cent of the nearly 7,000 refugees entered the U.S. this year were Christians. Christians, relatively more affluent than Muslims in Syria, felt protected by the Assad regime at the beginning of the conflict and began to apply for asylum only later, observers have pointed out.

Tough vetting

While flip-flopping on immigration, Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has forced Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton also to play to the gallery. While calling out Mr. Trump for demonising “millions of law-abiding Muslims in America” last month, she also supported “tough vetting.”

“So I am absolutely in favour of and have long been an advocate for tough vetting for making sure that we don’t let people into this country, and not just people who come here to settle, but we need a better visa system. Let’s remember what happened on 9/11. These were not refugees who got into airplanes and attacked our city and country,” she said.

Talking at a town hall on Thursday, Mr. Trump reiterated that he would build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, another one of his controversial positions. He also took a potshot at Ms. Clinton who has taken a break from campaign to prepare for the next presidential debate on Sunday. “Do you really think that Hillary Clinton is debate prepping for three or four days?” he asked. “It’s not debate prep. She’s resting, she’s resting. She’s resting and I want to be with the American people.”

The town hall, which was initially billed as occasion for common people to ask the candidate some tough questions, turned out to be a damp squib as participants were hand-picked and questions were vetted in advance. As a result, the event did not throw any new light on Mr. Trump’s thinking or evolution.