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U.S. Republican candidate Ben Carson has been slammed by rival politicians and the country's largest Muslim advocacy group after saying that a Muslim should never be elected as president of the United States.
"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," Carson, who is a Christian, told CBS's Meet the Press programme on Sunday.
The U.S.-based Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations has now called for Carson to leave the Republican race. "It's beyond the pale and he should withdraw," Ibrahim Hooper, the group's spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, also criticized Carson's remarks. "You know, this is the year 2015," he said. "You judge candidates for president not on their religion, not on the color of their skin, but on their ideas, on what they stand for."
Sanders went on to tweet that it took the U.S. "too long to overcome the prejudice against electing a Catholic or an African-American president."
The country's first-ever Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, also criticized the comments as "fear mongering" in an attempt to win more voters, saying they are "out of touch with who we are as a people."
"The freedom of religion is a founding principle of our nation," Ellison said in a statement. "Every American should be disturbed that these national figures are engaging in and tolerating blatant acts of religious bigotry."
Mia Farrow, American actress and former wife of Frank Sinatra, also commented on Carson's controversial comments on social media;
Following the backlash, Carson's campaign team said that he did not advocate the banning of Muslim candidates but believed that the American people would not be able to stomach a Muslim runner, saying that there was a "huge gulf" between Islam and "American values."
His spokesperson told NBC News: "He did not say that a Muslim should be prevented from running, or barred from running in any way. He just doesn't believe the American people are ready for that."
Republican front-runner Donald Trump failed to challenge a member of the audience at a town hall event on Thursday who said that there is a Muslim "problem" in the country and said that current U.S. President Barack Obama is himself a Muslim.
A Gallup poll released in June showed that 38 percent of the American public sides with Carson's views and that they would not be able to vote for a Muslim presidential candidate.