All Muslims should be barred from entering the United States because they hate Americans, Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner in the 2016 presidential race, said Monday.
The sweeping accusation from the bombastic billionaire, who has already stirred nativist passions by vowing to round up and forcibly expel more than 10 million Mexicans unlawfully in the United States, follows his earlier call to require more than three million resident Muslims – many of them U.S. citizens – be required to register with federal authorities.
A leading Muslim-American denounced Mr. Trump, calling him fascist.
"We're entering into the realm of the fascist now," said Ibrahim Hooper, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It should be disturbing to all Americans that the leading Republican presidential candidate would issue essentially a fascist statement."
Mr. Trump, who leads all Republicans in the race to replace President Barack Obama, said a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" should be imposed immediately.
Less than 24 hours after Mr. Obama – in a speech from the Oval Office – urged Americans not to overreact to the terrorist massacre by Islamic extremists in San Bernardino by vilifying Islam and praised the patriotism of millions of Americans Muslims revolted by the "killers and thugs" of extremist groups like Islamic State, Mr. Trump's call for entry bans and forced registration set off a political furor.
On the 74th anniversary of the surprise Pearl Harbor attack by Japanese warplanes that brought the United States into the Second World War, Mr. Trump's anti-Muslim accusations stirred dark memories.
Not since then, when tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry – including citizens – were rounded up and forced into internment camps has a major political figure in the United States called for imposing discriminatory treatment on the basis of religion or race.
Mr. Trump said "Muslim hatred is beyond comprehension," adding: "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."
Mr. Trump, whose self-financed campaign has stunned both the Republican mainstream establishment and U.S. political elites, led more than a dozen other Republican hopefuls by a wide margin for months. However, in recent weeks, the sometime reality TV show star and property magnate has been running neck-and-neck with Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, who has also tapped deep anti-Muslim feelings among right-wing Evangelicals and others in the Republican Party. Mr. Carson has said Muslims are unfit to be president. "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation, I absolutely would not," he said.
Some Republicans have been stoking the smouldering embers of anti-Muslim fervour in the United States since Mr. Obama launched his bid to replace former president George W. Bush. Mr. Obama, whose Kenyan father and Indonesian stepfather were both Muslims, and who spent some of his childhood in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, has been openly accused of being a closet Muslim by some right-wing Republicans.
In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has stepped up the anti-Muslim rhetoric, claiming that many Muslims danced and celebrated on rooftops in New Jersey as New York's World Trade Center's twin towers burned and collapsed – killing more than 3,000 – after being attacked with fuel-laden jetliners hijacked by al-Qaeda Islamic terrorists on Sept 11, 2001. When challenged to substantiate the accusation, Mr. Trump simply insisted it was true.
Often hesitant to challenge Mr. Trump, other Republican presidential candidates denounced him Monday.
"This is just more of the outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath and another reason why he is entirely unsuited to lead the United States," said Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a long-shot candidate mired at the bottom of Republican presidential polls, said Mr. Trump "has gone from making absurd comments to being downright dangerous with his bombastic rhetoric."
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said "Donald Trump is unhinged" while Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican field and a former Fortune 500 top executive, said "Trump's overreaction is as dangerous as President Obama's underreaction."
Senator Ted Cruz, the Tea Party favourite who hopes to collect much of the right-wing support if Mr. Trump falters, was more careful. "Well, that is not my policy," said the Alberta-born senator whose father was a Cuban immigrant. In Iowa, where voters will make the first selections in the long primary season on Feb. 1, the latest poll shows Mr. Cruz ahead of Mr. Trump.