An unfazed Donald Trump has insisted his controversial decision to impose travel curbs on people from seven predominantly Islamic countries was "not a Muslim ban" as his White House doubled down to defend the step as a move to avoid a situation that exists in parts of Europe.
"To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe," the US president said.
To stress his point, Trump added: "There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order."
Trump signed the order on Friday imposing an indefinite travel ban on Syrian refugees and a temporary curb on people from six other countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia - from entering the US for at least 90 days.
The move has invited criticism and outrage at home and from international leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slammed the restrictions, saying it was "not justified" to target people based on their background or religion.
French President Francois Hollande too has called for a "firm" response to the Trump administration "which has shown it has its own approach to the problems we all face."
Germany and France are two major countries in Europe battling the huge influx of refugees escaping the war in Syria. But they have not imposed such travel restrictions.
At home, Trump continued to face protests for the second day as thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the White House and at airports across the US, extending solidarity to those impacted by the travel ban.
The protesters raised slogans, 'This is what America looks like!', 'The people united, will never be divided' and 'No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,' as they waved the American flag and held placards, opposing Trump's order.
However, the White House said the curbs were aimed at avoiding a situation existing in parts of France, Germany and Belgium today, pointing out the surge in terrorist attacks in European countries.
Despite the global criticism, the Trump administration appears to have held its ground on the decision, saying the US is a sovereign country and it has the "right to develop a system in which we're selecting immigrants that we think will be able to make positive contributions to US society."
"The reality, though, is that the situation that exists today in parts of France, in parts of Germany, in Belgium, etcetera, is not a situation we want replicated inside the US," a senior Trump administration official told reporters yesterday during a conference call requesting anonymity.
"We don't want a situation where, 20 to 30 years from now, it's just like a given thing that on a fairly regular basis there is domestic terror strikes, stores are shut up or that airports have explosive devices planted, or people are mowed down in the street by cars and automobiles and things of that nature," the official said. .--PTI