Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a halt to Muslims entering the US, in the wake of the deadly California shootings.
In a campaign statement, he said a “total and complete” shutdown should remain until the US authorities “can figure out” Muslim attitudes to the US.
At a rally in South Carolina hours later, frontrunner Mr Trump repeated the pledge, to loud cheers.
Criticism from the White House and other Republicans was swift.
“Mr Trump’s comments were contrary to US values and its national security interests”, a statement from the White House said.
Republican Jeb Bush, also running for president, said the New York businessman was “unhinged”.
Mr Trump’s statement was delivered as the US comes to terms with its deadliest terror attack since 9/11, when a Muslim couple, believed to have been radicalised, opened fire and killed 14 people at a health centre in San Bernardino.
Trump, who has previously called for surveillance against mosques and said he was open to establishing a database for all Muslims living in the U.S., made his latest controversial call in a news release.
His message comes in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, by suspected ISIS sympathizers and the day after President Barack Obama asked the country not to “turn against one another” out of fear.
Trump’s comments are likely to roil the Republican presidential race, forcing many of his opponents for the nomination to engage in a debate over whether there should be a religious test to enter America.
But his proposal was met with enthusiasm by many of his supporters, who showed their approval via social media as well as at his rally on Monday night.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN on Monday that the ban would apply not just to Muslim foreigners looking to immigrate to the U.S., but also to Muslims looking to visit the U.S. as tourists.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, asked in an email if the shutdown would apply specifically to immigration or more broadly to student visas, tourists and other travelers to the United States, replied: “Everyone.”
In Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Trump dismissed his critics. He told a rally that mosques in the United States should also be scrutinized. “We have to see what’s happening,” he said.
Trump went farther than other Republican candidates, who have called for a suspension of a plan by President Barack Obama to bring into the United States as many as 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing their country’s civil war and Islamic State militants.
Trump’s remarks followed last week’s massacre in San Bernardino, California, by a Muslim couple. The husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, was U.S.-born. The wife, Tashfeen Malik, was born in Pakistan and came to the United States from Saudi Arabia. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Monday the couple had been radicalized.
Reactions from ‘reprehensible’ to ‘go Trump’
Social media reacted instantly to Trump’s statement with hashtags like #racism, #fascism and #bigot trending heavily. Some of the keywords trending were Hitler, shutdown and immigration.
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton tweeted that Trump’s idea was “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive.”
The director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, said Mr Trump sounded like the leader of a lynch mob rather than a great nation.
“This is outrageous coming from someone who wants to assume the highest office in the land. It is reckless and simply un-American. Donald Trump sounds more like a leader of a lynch mob than a great nation like ours,” Awad said.
Soon after his statement was released, Mr Trump’s Republican rival Ben Carson called on all visitors to the US to “register and be monitored” during their stay.
But his spokesman added: “We do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion.”
Another Republican presidential hopeful, Senator Lindsey Graham, urged all those running to condemn Mr Trump’s remarks, which they did.
The problem with Trump’s approach is that it is alienating and isolating, something that has already had a hugely negative impact on minorities around the world. This is not the solution, if such measures are allowed today, where do they stop tomorrow?