NEWARK, N.J. >> Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called Monday for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” an idea that prompted one of his rivals to call him “unhinged.”
The proposed ban would apply to immigrants and visitors alike, a sweeping prohibition affecting all adherents of Islam who want to come to the U.S. The idea also raised immediate questions about whether it could pass muster under constitutional protections of the free exercise of religion.
Trump’s campaign said in a statement such a ban should stand “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
The statement added that Trump’s proposal comes in response to a level of hatred among “large segments of the Muslim population” toward Americans.
“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 in the statement.
He added on Twitter: “Just put out a very important policy statement on the extraordinary influx of hatred & danger coming into our country. We must be vigilant!”
Several of Trump’s Republican rivals were quick to reject the latest provocation from a candidate who has delivered no shortage of them.
“Donald Trump is unhinged,” Jeb Bush said via Twitter. “His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.”
Carly Fiorina said, “Trump’s overreaction is as dangerous as President Obama’s under-reaction.”
John Kasich slammed Trump’s “outrageous divisiveness,” while a more measured Ted Cruz, who has always been cautious about upsetting Trump’s supporters, said, “Well, that is not my policy.”
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Trump’s proposed ban would apply to “everybody,” including Muslims seeking immigration visas as well as tourists seeking to enter the country.
He did not respond to questions about whether it would also include Muslims who are U.S. citizens and travel outside of the country, or how a determination of someone’s religion might be made by customs and border officials.
In response to a request for additional detail, Trump said via a campaign spokeswoman: “Because I am so politically correct, I would never be the one to say. You figure it out!”
Trump’s proposal comes a day after President Barack Obama spoke to the nation from the Oval Office about the shootings in San Bernardino, California, which Obama said was “an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people.”
The FBI said Monday the Muslim couple who carried out the massacre had been radicalized and had taken target practice at area gun ranges, in one case within days of the attack last week that killed 14 people.
Trump’s campaign has been marked by a pattern of inflammatory statements, dating back to his harsh rhetoric about Mexican immigrants.
He has taken a particularly hard line against Muslims in the days since the Paris attacks, advocating enhanced surveillance of mosques due to fears over radicalization.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest accused Trump of playing on people’s fears and trying to tap into “a darker side, a darker element” of American society.
From the Democratic presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders said: “Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims. The United States is a great nation when we stand together. We are a weak nation when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.”