Cuomo compares Trump's immigration policies to 'a jihad'

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) on Monday compared President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE's hard-line immigration policies to "a jihad." 

Cuomo, who is facing a challenge from the left in his campaign for reelection in November, drew the parallel during a visit to Puerto Rico. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"This administration is on a crusade against people who they do not consider original Americans," Cuomo said, "which is specious and hypocritical at best, because unless you’re a member of a Native American tribe, then you’re really an immigrant to the United States, right?"

"But what they’ve done at the border is an example, what they’ve done in Puerto Rico," Cuomo continued. 

"And they are on a jihad to deport as many people as they can who they believe are not in the United States legally," he added.

"Jihad" is an Arabic word which refers to a spiritual struggle, but Islamic fundamentalists have co-opted the term to describe violence in defense of Islam. 

Cuomo's invocation of the word to describe deportations has riled Muslim activists in New York. 

The Muslim Democratic Club of New York (MDCNY) on Tuesday released a statement calling on Cuomo to apologize for his improper use of the term.

"Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda is rooted in white nationalism, racism, and xenophobia," said Sadaf Mehdi, MDCNY board secretary, in the press release. "Governor Cuomo's comparison of it to a ‘jihad’ only perpetuates the Islamophobic trope that acts of violence are somehow a Muslim invention."

Cuomo also faced backlash from the Muslim community after reports emerged last month that he has never visited a mosque in his seven years as governor. 

“Governor Cuomo should look up the terms ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘state-sponsored violence,’ both of which would be much more suitable to describe Trump’s policies," MDCNY member Sohran Mamdani said in the press release. 

Cuomo was visiting Puerto Rico as part of a trip to observe the damage caused by Hurricane Maria last year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been roundly criticized for its handling of Puerto Rico's worst natural disaster on record. 

A report last month said FEMA had been underprepared to deal with the crisis

"FEMA leadership acknowledged that the Agency could have better anticipated that the severity of hurricanes Irma and Maria would cause long-term, significant damage to the territories’ infrastructure," the report reads.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans still do not have electricity, a little less than a year after the storm.