A leader of San Diego's Muslim community Tuesday denounced Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump's call for a "shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States.
Hanif Mohebi, of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Trump's comments were "divisive" and "outrageous."
Trump grabbed headlines Monday when he made the call to block Muslim immigration into the United States, responding to President Barack Obama's speech on efforts to combat terrorism following the deadly attack in San Bernardino. He later clarified his remarks and said Muslims who are U.S. citizens would be allowed to return.
"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. 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."
Although his proposal has earned him praise from supporters, it has also sparked widespread criticism, including from Republican leaders.
"What happens is when politicians make such remarks, the ignorant person on the street, that may not have much information, (may) be emboldened to act," Mohebi told City News Service. "That's where we have not only hate-filled rhetoric and speech from individuals on the street, but also sometimes (someone) can be emboldened to act violently."
Since the beginning of the year, Muslims in the San Diego area have reported more than 170 incidents to his office, including a recent assault on a San Diego State University student, Mohebi said. He said over 45 have involved hate mail and threats.
Ron Nehring, a longtime local and state Republican official, said many people want a stronger response to terrorism than what's been offered by the president, but measures need to be "constructive, and effective and based upon American values and principles, period."
He said Republicans believe in the principle of individual responsibility, not group responsibility.
"That is that individuals are responsible for their own actions," Nehring said. "Therefore, each individual -- whether they are applying to immigrate to the United States or otherwise, should be evaluated on their own merits, based on their own character or actions."
Nehring also pointed out that the U.S. has numerous Muslim allies in the fight against terrorism.
Besides being the vice chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, Nehring chairs the California campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. He said Cruz does not support Trump's position, but reiterated that his comments to CNS were his own and not on behalf of the campaign.
Trump's comments were the latest offshoot from Wednesday's shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, where 14 people were killed and 21 wounded. The perpetrators, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were killed in a gun battle with police about seven hours after the shooting.
FBI officials said Monday the couple were "radicalized" and had been for some time.