LONDON (Reuters) - More than 35,000 Britons have signed an online petition to ban U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump from the country following his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
In response to a deadly shooting spree in California by two Muslims whom the FBI said had been radicalized, Trump called for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
After condemnation from around the world, Trump on Tuesday defended his proposal which he said was no worse than those of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who oversaw the internment of more than 110,000 people in U.S. government camps after Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
"The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech," the text of the British petition said.
"If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the 'unacceptable behavior' criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful."
Britain's interior ministry has the power to ban people from entering the country if they have engaged in what the government determines to be unacceptable behavior. In the past people have been banned for fostering hatred that might provoke inter-community violence.
By early on Wednesday morning the petition had attracted 35,827 signatures - a number which was rising quickly. The government responds to all petitions that gain more than 10,000 signatures, and if it reaches 100,000 the topic will be considered for a parliamentary debate.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday said Cameron thought Trump's comments were "divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong".
Britain has an estimated 2.7 million Muslim population. Earlier this year, the government said fighting extremism was one of the defining battles of this century and announced a strategy primarily designed to counter the ideology promoted by Islamic State militants, al Qaeda and other radical Islamists.
(Reporting by William James; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)