UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. human rights chief called Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal that all Muslims be banned from entering the United States "grossly irresponsible," warning Tuesday that it plays into the hands of extremist groups at the expense of ordinary Muslims who are also "eligible targets" of the extremists.
Zeid Raad al-Hussein said he and other Muslims at the U.N. "could be victimized by these groups" as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others.
"So it's not a case of the West vs. Islam, it's a case of the violent extremists on the one hand vs. the rest, and that's the truth," he told a group of reporters.
The U.N. high commissioner for human rights said that "when political leaders rampage verbally through the lexicon to describe any minority in a way that is somehow pejorative, I think it's dangerous in this moment in time." He added that the leaders themselves may not be aware of the potential repercussions.
Zeid said the United States was founded on the dignity and rights of the individual, and the danger of classifying and categorizing people is that "it dehumanizes — it can lead to victimization of the innocent."
"Clearly, while there's no love lost for those who perpetrate violence and the killings of civilians, it's a double tragedy when the innocent have to suffer because of the reactions," Zeid said.
Earlier Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said the U.N. chief also strongly opposes Trump's call.
Farhan Haq said Ban has repeatedly spoken out against all forms of xenophobia and statements against migrants, racial or religious groups "and that would certainly apply in this case."
While political campaigns have their own dynamics, Haq said, "we do not believe that any kind of rhetoric that relies on Islamaphobia, xenophobia, any other appeal to hate any groups, really should be followed by anyone."
Trump has defended his call Monday for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," which has sparked widespread condemnation in the U.S. and abroad.