WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump yesterday called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States in the most dramatic response by a candidate yet to last week’s shooting spree by two Muslims who the FBI said were radicalized.
Trump’s “statement on preventing Muslim immigration” drew fierce criticism from some of his rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, all of whom have been searching for ways to knock him out of the lead.
Withering reaction flowed in from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
“Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious,” Bush said in a tweet. The billionaire developer and former reality TV star, who frequently uses racially charged rhetoric, called for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the country “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
“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 said.
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 travellers to the United States, replied: “Everyone.”
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.
Twitter exploded over Trump’s proposal with Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton calling his idea “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive,” but conservative pundit Ann Coulter writing, “GO TRUMP, GO!”
Ibrahim Hooper, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group, had a blistering response.
“We’re entering into the realm of the fascist now,” he said by telephone. “It should be disturbing not only to American Muslims, but it should be disturbing to all Americans that the leading Republican presidential candidate would issue essentially a fascist statement like this.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told MSNBC that Trump is “seeking to tap into a darker side, a darker element, and try to play on people’s fears in order to build support for his campaign.”