US presidential candidate Ben Carson compares Syrian refugees to rabid dogs

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaking at a news conference in Nevada on Nov 16.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaking at a news conference in Nevada on Nov 16. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson on Thursday (Nov 19) compared refugees fleeing Syria's civil war and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists to rabid dogs.

Dr Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and a top contender in his party's 2016 race for the White House, made the remarks at a campaign stop in the southern US state of Alabama.

"We must balance safety against being a humanitarian," Dr Carson said as he talked about admitting Syrian refugees into the United States.

"If there's a rabid dog running around your neighbourhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you are probably going to get your children out of the way.

"Doesn't mean you hate all dogs, by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

Dr Carson called for immigration "screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are".

The comments came on the same day that the House of Representatives voted to ban Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the United States until tougher screening measures are in place.

The Republican legislation, the first congressional response to last week's terror attacks in Paris, passed overwhelmingly, 289 to 137.

President Barack Obama, who has threatened to veto the Bill should it reach his desk, has criticised Republicans for "hysteria" and falling short of their humanitarian duty to take in the oppressed.

The Bill now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.