Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a “total and complete shutdown” on all Muslims entering the United States.
In a statement distributed to the press, Mr Trump said polling showed a “hatred” by Muslims toward Americans that could result in more attacks.
“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension,” he said.
“Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine.
“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.”
Mr Trump’s aides did not specify if the proposal would affect both tourists and immigrants, and also did not say if it would target American Muslims currently abroad.
The statement drew sweeping condemnation by presidential rivals and the White House, which denounced Mr Trump’s call as “totally contrary” to US values.
“We have in our Bill of Rights respect for the freedom of religion,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
“It’s also contrary to our security,” Mr Rhodes added, explaining Islamic State militants were trying to cast the US as being at war with Islam.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also criticised Mr Trump’s statement, saying his comments were entering the realm of fascism.
Mr Trump has been increasingly virulent in his remarks targeting Muslim Americans since the deadly Paris attacks, and again in the wake of last week’s shooting rampage in California, which left 14 dead and 21 wounded.
Last month, he caused a furore when he claimed he saw “thousands and thousands of people” cheering in parts of New Jersey with substantial Arab-American populations as the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2001.
But his latest statement was particularly jarring.
“Just put out a very important policy statement on the extraordinary influx of hatred & danger coming into our country. We must be vigilant!” Mr Trump tweeted after the statement was released.
His announcement unleashed severe condemnation on Twitter, including from other Republicans running for president.
“Donald Trump is unhinged,” former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted. “His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.”
“Every candidate for president needs to do the right thing & condemn @realDonaldTrump’s statement,” senator Lindsey Graham added.
Democratic presidential contender Martin O’Malley said Mr Trump’s incendiary comment “removes all doubt: he is running for president as a fascist demagogue.”
Meanwhile a spokesman for Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential hopeful, said everyone visiting the United States should register and be monitored while in the country.
“Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay as is done in many countries,” said the spokesman, Doug Watts.
“We do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion.”
Mr Trump made the statement after a new poll showed senator Ted Cruz leading the field of Republican presidential contenders in the politically crucial state of Iowa.
The poll — the first in which Mr Cruz has led the field — showed the Texas senator with 24 per cent support from voters who intend to take part in the February 1, 2016 Iowa caucuses, the first real measure of voter support in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mr Trump was second with 19 per cent support.