Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Monday called for a “total and complete” block on Muslims entering the United States, in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in California by a Muslim couple believed to have been radicalised.
A statement from Trump’s campaign team said the halt on Muslims entering the country should remain in place “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.
Asked by the political news publication The Hill whether the proposal would include Muslim-American citizens currently abroad, Trump’s spokeswoman replied: “Mr Trump says, ‘everyone'”.
Trump’s campaign cites poll data allegedly showing “hatred toward Americans by large segments of the Muslim population”.
“Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine,” the billionaire real estate mogul, who is leading in opinion polls among likely Republican voters, said in the statement.
“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
Trump has been increasingly virulent in his remarks targeting Muslim Americans since the deadly Paris attacks, and again in the wake of last week’s shooting rampage in California, which left 14 dead and 21 wounded.
“Just put out a very important policy statement on the extraordinary influx of hatred and danger coming into our country. We must be vigilant!” Trump tweeted after the statement was released.
White House officials, presidential hopefuls condemn comments
His announcement unleashed quick condemnation from the White House and presidential candidates.
Senior White House officials quickly lined up to condemn Trump’s proposal, saying it was contrary to US values and interests.
“You’re being generous by describing it as a proposal,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, castigating the fiery Republican presidential frontrunner’s latest outburst as “cynical”.
“I think what Mr Trump is doing is something that he’s been doing over the course of his entire campaign, which is … to play on people’s fears in order to build support for his campaign.”
“I think what he’s doing, he’s dividing America in a really cynical way,” Earnest told MSNBC.
“It’s entirely inconsistent with the kinds of values that were central to the founding of this country,” said Earnest.
One of President Barack Obama’s top foreign policy aides, Ben Rhodes, told CNN that the plan was also “contrary to our security”.
“The fact of the matter is (the Islamic State group) wants to frame this as a war between the United States and Islam,” he added.
“And if we look like we apply religious tests to who comes into to this country, we are sending a message that essentially we are embracing that.”
Rhodes added that the move plan, if acted upon, would also call into question the United States’ ability to work with Muslim communities to counter radicalisation.
“We have, in our Bill of Rights, respect for the freedom of religion.”
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted that Trump “and others want us to hate all Muslims”.
“Demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin,” Sanders wrote. “The U.S. is a strong nation when we stand together. We are weak when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.” MAAN NEWS