WASHINGTON - The White House led the denunciation of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump when he took his anti-Islamic rhetoric to a new level by calling to bar all Muslims from entering the United States.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” Trump’s campaign headquarters in New York said in a statement issued on Monday.

“It’s totally contrary to our values as Americans,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said. “You know, we have in our Bill of Rights respect for the freedom of religion. Muslim Americans have made extraordinary contributions to our country, but it’s also contrary to our security,” he said.

Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States, calling it a temporary measure in a time of war.

Trump likened his proposal to those implemented by former US President Franklin Roosevelt against people of Japanese, Germans and Italian descent during World War Two. “What I’m doing is no different than FDR,” Trump said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program in one of a round of heated television interviews where he defended his plan in the wake of last week’s California shooting spree by two Muslims who authorities said were radicalized.

“We have no choice but to do this,” the candidate seeking the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race told ABC. “We have people that want to blow up our buildings, our cities. We have figure out what’s going on.”

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s “extremist and racist” call to bar Muslims from entering the United States could fuel hate and tensions in American society, Egypt’s official religious body warned Tuesday.

Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa, which each year issues tens of thousands of edicts that carry influence but not the force of law, denounced Trump’s latest statement. “This hostile vision towards Islam and Muslims will increase the tension within American society,” Dar Al-Iftaa said in a statement. The British government condemned comments by US presidential hopeful Donald Trump as “wrong” on Tuesday, after the Republican frontrunner said Muslims should be barred from entering the United States. British Prime Minister David Cameron “completely disagrees” with the remarks, which are “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong”, a spokeswoman for the Conservative leader said.

On Wednesday, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29, stormed a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, killing at least 14 people and injuring 21 in the deadliest mass shooting in the US in three years. Hours later, the couple reportedly died in a fire exchange with police.

Malik had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Daesh (Islamic State) terrorist group, three US officials familiar with the investigation claimed on Friday. On Saturday, Daesh also claimed the couple as its followers.

In Pakistan, Muslims denounced Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, dismissing the US Republican presidential front-runner as a bigot who promoted violence.

Trump’s statement on “preventing Muslim immigration” drew swift and fierce criticism from many directions at home, including the from the White House and rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Trump, responding to last week’s California shooting spree by two Muslims who the Federal Bureau of Investigation said had been radicalized, called for a complete block on Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”. “It’s so absurd a statement that I don’t even wish to react to it,” said Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan’s most prominent human rights lawyers.

“This is the worst kind of bigotry mixed with ignorance. I would imagine that someone who is hoping to become president of the US doesn’t want to compete with an ignorant criminal-minded mullah of Pakistan who denounces people of other religions ... Although we are not as advanced as the US, we have never elected such people to power in Pakistan.” Tahir Ashrafi, the head of the Ulema Council, Pakistan’s biggest council of Muslim clerics, said Trump’s comments promoted violence.

“If some Muslim leader says there is a war between Christians and Muslims, we condemn him.

So why should we not condemn an American if he says that?

“Islamic State is a problem of Syria, not religion. If you solve the Syria issue, 75 percent of the IS problem will be solved.”

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir said his government would not comment on election campaigns in other countries, while adding that his country had made know its position on terrorism. “As the country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia affirms that Islam teaches peace and tolerance,” he told Reuters. “Acts of terror do not have any relation with any religion or country or race.”

Trump’s comments at a rally on Monday in South Carolina prompted criticism from Republican former Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, who said Trump was “unhinged”. They followed last week’s killings in San Bernardino, California, by a Muslim couple.

The husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, was US-born. The wife, Tashfeen Malik, was born in Pakistan and came to the United States from Saudi Arabia. Reuters

Rhodes then said Daesh “wants to frame this as a war between the United States and Islam” and Trump was aiding in that effort.

“If we look like we’re applying religious tests [for] who comes into this country, we’re sending a message that essentially we’re embracing that frame,” Rhodes said.

Trump has adopted a harsher tone against Muslims and Islam since the last month Paris attacks that were allegedly claimed by Daesh.

The New York billionaire has also called for a database to track Muslims across the United States, and he has also said that the US would have “absolutely no choice” but to close down mosques.

Only hours after news broke that suspects in the San Bernardino shooting had Muslim names, American Muslims strongly condemned the incident, but this did not stop conservative US mainstream media from spewing hate and venom against Muslims and Islam.

Trump read the press statement announcing the Muslim immigration proposal aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Much of the crowd gave the policy a standing ovation.

“This is pretty heavy stuff. And it’s common sense, and we have to do it,” Trump said. “These are people who are here, by the way,” he said, mentioning the poll he had cited to support his insistence that many Muslims support violence against Americans.

“These are people who only believe in jihad,” Trump said. “They have no respect for human life.”“Send them all home!” several in the crowd shouted. A protester, one of around 10 removed during the event, called the proposal “racist”

In an earlier interview on Fox News, Trump said his proposal “does not apply to people living in this country, but we have to be vigilant.”

Trump’s call, less than a week after the California shootings by a Muslim couple who appear to have been radicalized, quickly drew criticism from members of both parties, including his opponents in upcoming Republican presidential primaries.

“That’s a ridiculous position and one that won’t even be productive,” said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted that Trump “is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.”

Asked about his Republican critics in the Fox News interview, Trump said they trail him in the polls; he also said that many of his rivals for the nomination would come around to his idea in the long run.

Democratic presidential front-runner HIllary Clinton also blasted Trump’s plan on Twitter, calling it “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive.”“This makes us less safe,” she added.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized Trump’s remarks as unconstitutional and un-American. “It seems that Donald Trump is now channeling the worst of the worst of the Islamaphobia industry in the United States,” said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.

Hooper also said there is a “toxic anti-Muslim environment” in the country since the attacks, and Trump may benefit politically from his proposal. “That’s the most frightening part,” Hooper said.

Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration came the same day that a new poll showed him falling behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Iowa, which opens the nomination process with caucuses on Feb. 1. Asked about Trump’s plan, Cruz told reporters “that’s not my policy,” and said that he wants to keep the focus on “radical Islamic terrorism.”

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, tweeted that Trump is “putting at risk the lives of interpreters, American supporters, diplomats, & the troops in the region by making these bigoted comments.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich described Trump’s proposal as “more of the outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath and another reason why he is entirely unsuited” for the presidency.

The campaign of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said in a statement it does not agree with Trump on the Muslim issue, but everyone visiting the United States “should register and be monitored during their stay as is done in many countries. We do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion.”

Florida Senato Marco Rubio said Trump’s “habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together.”Democratic critics said the leading Republican presidential candidate is brazenly appealing to people’s fears, and unfairly targeting all Muslims for the actions of a few.”It’s un-American for the presidential frontrunner of the Republican Party to call for a complete shutdown of Muslims not just immigrating but simply entering the United States,” said Jessica Mackler, president of the Democratic political action group American Bridge 21st Century.

A Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, said that “demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin. Now, Trump and others want us to hate all Musli” Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said Trump had made clear with his latest plan that he was running “as a fascist demagogue.”

In a statement emailed to reporters, the Trump campaign cited what it described as polling data showing “there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population,” and that many Muslims believe in Shariah Law.

“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension,” Trump said. “Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine.”