The Jewish director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which campaigns against anti-Semitism and other bigotry, said Friday that he would register as a Muslim if Donald Trump establishes a database of Muslims in America.
"The day they create a registry for Muslims is the day that I register as a Muslim because of my Jewish faith, because of my commitment to our core American values, because I want this country to be as great as it always has been," Jonathan Greenblatt told AFP.
During his campaign, President-elect Trump variously called for banning all Muslim visitors to the United States, subjecting those in the country to loyalty tests and even for some to be deported.
Asked on MSNBC in November last year whether the White House should institute a database system to track Muslims in the country, Trump replied, "Oh, I would certainly implement that, absolutely."
Trump campaign attempted to walk back his pledge on Thursday, saying in a statement that the president-elect "never advocated" a registry.
However, at least two prominent Trump supporters raised the prospect again this week, including one who cited World War II-era Japanese-American internment camps as a precedent.
"We've done it based on race, we've done it based on religion, we've done it based on region," Carl Higbie, who during the campaign was spokesman for a pro-Trump "super PAC" fundraising group, said on Fox News.
"As a Jewish community, we know what happens with litmus tests," Greenblatt said. "We can remember. We have painful memories of when we ourselves were identified, registered and tagged."
Greenblatt, who previously worked in the White House as a special assistant to President Barack Obama, also criticized Trump's hiring of Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist.
The appointment ignited controversy due to Bannon's role as the head of the Breitbart News website -- a key outlet for the extreme right wing, or "alt-right," movement.
Bannon "in his own words has presided over making his former business Breitbart THE platform for the 'alt-right,' this loose-knit group of white supremacists, anti-Semites and racists," Greenblatt said.
Nevertheless, the ADL wants to "engage" with Trump and his administration "on the issues we care about," he added, although "we will hold them relentlessly accountable to those issues."
Trump's election last week prompted a spike in racist attacks and harassment across the country.
But Greenblatt said it also moved many people to volunteer for the ADL and donate money.
"Even though we have seen some of the worst impulses of society lifted up, we've also seen some of our better angels prevail."