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Candidates use heated rhretoric about Muslims

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Posted at 7:36 AM, Nov 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-20 10:36:02-05

Top Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson are ratcheting up their rhetoric about Muslims, with Trump calling for a mandatory database to track Muslims in the United States and Carson comparing Syrian refugees to rabid dogs.

The comments follow the terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, elevating fears of attacks in the U.S. and prompting calls for new restrictions on refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was the first Republican rival to condemn Trump's call for a Muslim database, calling the proposal "abhorrent."

"You're talking about internment, you're talking about closing mosques, you're talking about registering people, and that's just wrong," Bush said Friday on CNBC.

Trump's comments about a national database for Muslims came Thursday night while he was campaigning in Iowa. In a video posted on MSNBC.com, Trump was asked 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 program would be "all about management."

Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who has challenged Trump's standing atop the GOP field, also raised eyebrows Thursday when he compared blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. to handling a rabid dog.

"If there's a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog," Carson told reporters at a campaign stop in Alabama. "It doesn't mean you hate all dogs, but you're putting your intellect into motion."

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 that may be difficult to correct once their political ambitions have been satisfied," CAIR's Robert McCaw said in a statement.

Trump's comments in particular are expected to force his rivals to weigh in on whether they support or oppose his proposal. Republicans have vacillated in their handling of other inflammatory comments from the bellicose billionaire, wary of alienating the front-runner's supporters but also increasingly concerned that he's managed to maintain his grip on the GOP race deep into the fall.

A super PAC supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich had started running a television advertisement in New Hampshire targeting Trump and Carson's preparedness for being commander in chief. The ad opens with pictures of Trump, Carson and President Barack Obama as a narrator says, "Job training for president does not work." The ad then pivots to a review of the national security issues facing the country and argued Kasich is the only candidate with a plan to defeat the Islamic State.

The campaign trail comments also come amid a debate on Capitol Hill about refugees from the Middle East. The House passed legislation Thursday essentially barring Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has slotted 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.

The first reference to a database for Muslims came in Trump's interview with Yahoo News published earlier Thursday in which the billionaire real estate mogul did not reject the idea of requiring Muslims to register in a database or giving them special identification cards noting their religion.

"We're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely," Trump told Yahoo News.

He also suggested he would consider warrantless searches, according to Yahoo, saying, "We're going to have to do things that we never did before."

Asked by reporters Thursday night to explain his Yahoo comments, Trump suggested his response had been misconstrued. "I never responded to that question," he said.

Carson repeated his comparison of Muslim Syria refugees to rabid dogs in a second event Thursday. He said that while "Islam itself is not necessarily our adversary," Americans are justified in seeing threats from Muslim refugees and the U.S. shouldn't "completely change who we are as Americans just so we can look like good people."

He continued: "We have an American culture, and we have things that we base our values and principles on. I, for one, am not willing to give all those things away just so I can be politically correct."