WASHINGTON: 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."
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The statement does not specify if the proposal would affect both tourists and immigrants, and also does not say if it would target American Muslims currently abroad.
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."
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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 & danger coming into our country. We must be vigilant!" Trump tweeted after the statement was released.
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Senior White House officials in response, lined up Monday to condemn Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, 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."
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"I think what he's doing, he's dividing America in a really cynical way," Earnest told MSNBC.
A statement from Trump's campaign team earlier ignited a political firestorm, by suggesting he would stop Muslims from entering the country "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
The comments come in the wake of a mass shooting that saw a married couple kill 14 people and we denounced by many in his own party.
"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.'
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"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.
Many Twitter users also condemned Trump's statement:
Saying we should Ban Muslims from the U.S is so asinine...it's a hate crime. Smh! #DonaldTrumpDoesNotSpeakForMe— Ron (@ronottaf) December 8, 2015
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