Obama dismisses Christian-only refugee policy, calls rejection of Muslims 'shameful'
Barack Obama has called the Republican candidates who have argued Muslim refugees must be kept out of America "shameful."
The idea that there should be a bias toward Christian refugees arriving from Syria has been rejected by the President of the United States as "not America".
"When I hear political leaders suggesting that there should be a religious test for admitting which person fleeing which country," Obama said, "when some of these folks themselves come from other countries, that's shameful.
"That's not America. That's not who we are. We don't have religious tests to our compassion."
This comes after some Republicans, including Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, called for Christians to have priority in the Syrian refugee crisis after the attacks in Paris on Friday left at least 129 people dead.
Obama countered these claims, instead arguing that it was essential not to stir up fear of Islam or refugees.
"I think it is very important for us right now, particularly those who are in leadership, particularly those who have a platform and can be heard, not to fall into that trap," Obama said. "Not to feed that dark impulse inside of us.
"I have a lot of disagreements with George W Bush on policy. But I was very proud after 9/11, when he was very adamant and clear that this is not a war on Islam.
"And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that – that's not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It's the right one. It's the right impulse, it's the better impulse."
Rather than focusing on the fear of the other, he argued that it is crucial to realise that instead of being terrorist risks themselves, "the people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorists, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife."
He reminded the audience of the true Christian response of compassion, referencing Pope Francis' message: "[Pope Francis] didn't just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He said protect people who are vulnerable."