Donald Trump’s secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson has said he does not support blanket travel ban against Muslims even as he asserted that the US must win the war against Islamic terrorists not just on the battlefield, but in the war of ideas.
“I think what’s important is that we are able to make a judgement about the people that are coming into the country. And so no, I do not support a blanket type rejection of any particular group of people,” the 64-year-old former ExxonMobil CEO told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing yesterday.
“But clearly, we have serious challenges to be able to vet people coming into the country particularly, under the current circumstances because of the instability in the parts of the world that it’s occurring,” he said.
“It’s a huge challenge and I don’t think we can just close our eyes and ignore that. We have to be very clear-eyed about recognising that threat and developing a means to deal with it,” Tillerson said.
President-elect Donald Trump had vowed to temporarily ban Muslim travel and immigration to the country after a wave of terrorist attacks carried out or inspired by the Islamic State in Europe and the US.
He has since walked back that promise, instead of saying he would ban immigration from countries where terrorism is prevalent.
Tillerson, however, said he would require more information on how the government would approach constructing a registry of Muslims before he would consider lending his support to creating one.
“I would need to have a lot more information on how such an approach would even be constructed. And if it were a tool for vetting, then it probably extends to other people as well other groups that are threats to the US,” he said.
Tillerson said the US must win the war against Islamic terrorists, not just on the battlefield, but must triumph in the war of ideas.
Tillerson said that because of his past work, he has travelled extensively to Muslim countries.
“I’ve gained an appreciation and recognition of this great faith. That’s why I made a distinction that we should support those Muslim voices that reject this same radical Islam that we reject,” he noted.
“Now, this is part of winning the war other than on the battlefield. I mentioned we have to win it, not just on the battlefield. We’ve gotta to win the war of ideas and our of our greatest allies in this war is going to be the moderate voices of Muslim, of people in the Muslim faith, who speak from their perspective and their rejection of that representation of what is otherwise a great faith,” he said.
“My expectation is that we’re going to be able to re-engage with our traditional friends and allies in the region. Not just in the middle east but I think as you pointed out there are large Muslim populations in South East Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, other important countries in that part of the world where we have serious issues of common issues as well,” he said.
Radical Islam, he said, poses a grave risk to the stability of nations and the well-being of their citizens.
Tillerson said eliminating ISIS would be the first step in disrupting the capabilities of other groups and individuals committed to striking America’s homeland and allies.