WASHINGTON • The leading Republican presidential candidate, Mr Donald Trump, has dismissed criticism at home and abroad over his "grossly irresponsible" call to bar Muslims from entering the United States, as the White House branded him unfit to lead.
Mr Trump made the provocative remarks - just his latest on a range of topics on the campaign trail - after last week's shooting in California that left 14 dead. The attack was carried out by a Muslim couple said to have been radicalised.
In an address on Sunday from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama called the attack in San Bernardino an "act of terrorism", but stressed there was no "war between America and Islam".
Less than 24 hours later, Mr Trump urged a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on".
The bombastic 69-year-old billionaire real estate mogul was unrepentant on Tuesday, even as criticism rained down from the White House and as far afield as Ottawa, London and Cairo.
I don't know what his motive is, but I know what he's preaching is a very, very dangerous brew for America.
UNITED STATES VICE- PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
GOING AGAINST CULTURE
Tell Donald Trump: Hate is not an American value.
DEMOCRAT HILLARY CLINTON
Mr Trump stood firm. Asked by ABC News whether he regretted calling for the ban, he said: "Not at all. We have to do the right thing."
And confronted with the charge that extremists would use Mr Trump's rhetoric as a recruiting tool, the candidate scoffed. "I'm the worst thing that's ever happened to ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria)," he said.
The strongest reaction came in the US, where White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Mr Trump's proposals were unconstitutional and challenged Republicans to denounce him. "What Donald Trump said yesterday disqualifies him from serving as president," said Mr Earnest, calling the remarks "offensive" and "toxic".
Mr Trump, whose comments were extreme even by his populist standards, was similarly lambasted by leading Republicans and campaign rivals. Mr Trump was the "ISIL man of the year", thundered Senator Lindsey Graham, referring to his belief that Mr Trump was succeeding only in fuelling the radical ideology of the ISIS terror group.
Mrs Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front runner, said Mr Trump was playing "right into the hands of terrorists".
But Mr Trump showed little inclination to back down, instead comparing the proposed ban to actions taken by Franklin Roosevelt against Japanese and German "enemy aliens" during World War II, though he stopped short of advocating internment camps.
Asked by ABC News whether he was concerned about being increasingly compared to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Mr Trump said, referring to the former US president: "No, because what I'm doing is no different than FDR."
Amid the uproar, Mr Trump announced on Twitter that he would travel to Israel by the year end. Israeli politicians of all stripes yesterday called for the visit to be blocked.
In Britain, over 150,000 people have signed an online petition to ban Mr Trump from the country.
Having topped 100,000 signatures, the petition now has to be considered for debate by Parliament and will require a written government response.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS