LONDON (AFP, Reuters) - More than 250,000 people had signed by Wednesday (Dec 9) a petition to ban US presidential hopeful Donald Trump from Britain following his call to bar Muslims from entering the United States.
Trump, who owns two golf courses in Scotland which he visited earlier this year, called for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.
His comments followed last week’s deadly shooting spree by two Muslims in California.
Having exceeded 100,000 signatures and growing, the petition now has to be considered for debate by parliament and will require a written government response. But Britain’s finance minister George Osborne said on Wednesday that Trump should not be banned from the country.
In the past, people have been banned from entering Britain for fostering hatred that might provoke inter-community violence.
“The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the UK,” said the petition, which was posted on the government's website late on Tuesday by Scottish resident Suzanne Kelly, a long-time critic of the 69-year-old billionaire.
"If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the 'unacceptable behaviour' criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful," it added.
The petition was part of a social media storm after Trump said that radicalisation meant there parts of London where the police feared for their lives.
Tweeting under the ironic hashtag #trumpfacts, web users mocked the blustering tycoon.
One tweet had a picture of London’s telecom tower with the comment: “The world’s tallest minaret calls the whole nation to prayer in the UK”. Another carried an image of Queen Elizabeth II wearing a headscarf with the inscription: “Even the British monarch is now forced to wear a hijab”.
Six MPs have also signed a House of Commons motion brought by Labour member Imran Hussain calling on the government "to refuse a visa allowing Donald Trump to visit the UK until Mr Trump withdraws his comments", saying they were "extremely divisive and will incite discrimination and hatred."
Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on" following recent terror attacks that left 14 dead in California and 130 dead in Paris.
He later defended his comments on US network MSNBC, saying: "They have sections in Paris that are radicalised, where the police refuse to go.
"We have places in London... that are so radicalised that the police are afraid for their own lives."
London mayor Boris Johnson immediately dismissed Trump's comments as "complete and utter nonsense" while a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron called the remarks "divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong".
More than 17,000 had signed another petition, also launched by Kelly, calling on the Robert Gordon University in the Scottish city of Aberdeen to strip Trump of an honorary degree awarded in 2010.
Kelly is one of many Aberdeen residents and environmentalists opposed to Trump's coastal golf course and hotel development, and a map of the government petition revealed a high number of signatories in the local area.
She submitted her draft government petition last week after Trump, whose mother was Scottish, made inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants, but it had been under review by Parliament's Petition Committee before going online on Tuesday.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Trump's remarks on Muslims were "obnoxious and offensive, and have rightly been condemned by people across the political spectrum."
Any British citizen can launch a petition on the government's website, asking for a specific action from the government or parliament's lower House of Commons.