Republicans line up to condemn Trump's plan for Muslim database
Republican US presidential candidates swiftly condemned Donald Trump's call for requiring Muslims in the US to register in a national database, drawing a sharp distinction with the front-runner for the party's nomination.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush called Trump's proposal "abhorrent" while Ohio Governor John Kasich said Trump was trying to "divide people".
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has largely avoided criticising Trump throughout the 2016 campaign, said that while he was a fan of the billionaire businessman, "I'm not a fan of government registries of American citizens".
The unified pushback against Trump was rare. Republicans have wavered in their handling of other inflammatory comments from the bellicose real estate mogul, wary of alienating the front-runner's supporters.
But they are also increasingly concerned that he's managed to maintain his grip on the Republican race with the first primary votes less than three months away.
The rebuke followed Trump's call for a mandatory database to track Muslims in the US. The billionaire was asked on US TV whether Muslims would be required to register. He replied, "They have to be."
He said Muslims would be signed up at "different places" and said the programme would be "all about management".
The comments follow the terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. The Isil terror group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, elevating fears of attacks in the US and prompting calls for new restrictions on refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.
Trump, along with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, has stunned the political world with his rise to the top of some polls in the crowded Republican nomination race. The two outsider candidates continue to overshadow established politicians such as Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, who had been expected to become an early favourite.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton took to Twitter yesterday to challenge all Republican candidates to disavow Trump's comments.
"This is shocking rhetoric," she wrote. "It should be denounced by all seeking to lead this country."
Several did just that. "You're talking about internment, you're talking about closing mosques, you're talking about registering people, and that's just wrong," Governor Bush said on CNBC.
Senator Cruz said in Iowa that the US Constitution "protects religious liberty and I've spent the past several decades defending the religious liberty of every American".
A spokesman for Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said the candidate "does not support databases based on one's religion".
Governor Kasich said requiring people to register with the federal government because of their religion "strikes against all that we have believed in our nation's history". Governor Kasich has faced criticism following the Paris shooting for saying he would set up an agency with a "mandate" to promote what he calls "Judeo-Christian values" overseas to counter Islamist propaganda.
The campaign trail comments come amid a debate in Congress about refugees from the Middle East.
The House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday essentially barring Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the United States. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled the bill for possible Senate consideration, though it's unclear whether the chamber could get enough votes to override a veto by Obama, who opposes the measure.
Religious and civil liberties experts said Trump's idea is unconstitutional on several counts. The libertarian Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro said the idea also violates basic privacy and liberty rights.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned both Trump and Carson's comments as "Islamophobic and unconstitutional".
"Donald Trump and Ben Carson are contributing to an already toxic environment," said CAIR's Robert McCaw.