Donald Trump has defended himself against accusations of Islamophobia by saying he has at least 20 friends who are Muslim – but stopped short of naming them.
The Republican presidential candidate has previously said “I love the Muslims” despite provocative polices that include calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and a database to track the movements of those already living there.
Asked by the Telegraph who his Muslim backers were, Mr Trump reportedly ducked the question. He said: “Oh, I could give you about 20 of them.”
The newspaper added that Mr Trump’s son was also unable to shine light on any of his father’s Muslim friends. He did, however, say they had “completed a lot of business deals” in the Middle East.
The former star of the US version of the Apprentice made the comments moments after coming off stage in Sunday’s Republican debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.
During the debate Mr Trump added torture to the contest by saying that he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”. He has previously touted the benefits of waterboarding – which stimulates drowning – telling a crowd at a campaign rally last year that “you bet your ass” he would reintroduce the method of torture.
Following the shooting in San Bernadino last year, in which 14 people were killed in an attack by supporters of the so-called Islamic State, the billionaire business mogul responded by calling for all Muslims to be banned from the United States.
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
1/14 On Isis:
"Some of the candidates, they went in and didn’t know the air conditioner didn’t work and sweated like dogs, and they didn’t know the room was too big because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they going to beat ISIS?"
2/14 On immigration:
"I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."
3/14 On Free Trade:
"Free trade is terrible. Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have stupid people."
PAUL J. RICHARDS | AFP | Getty Images
4/14 On Mexicans:
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists."
5/14 On China:
"I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?... I love China. The biggest bank in the world is from China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower."
6/14 On work:
"If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."
7/14 On success:
"What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate."
8/14 On life:
"Everything in life is luck."
9/14 On ambition:
"You have to think anyway, so why not think big?"
10/14 On his opponents:
"Bush is totally in favour of Common Core. I don't see how he can possibly get the nomination. He's weak on immigration. He's in favour of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can't do it."
11/14 On Obamacare:
"You have to be hit by a tractor, literally, a tractor, to use it, because the deductibles are so high. It's virtually useless. And remember the $5 billion web site?... I have so many web sites, I have them all over the place. I hire people, they do a web site. It costs me $3."
12/14 On Barack Obama:
"Obama is going to be out playing golf. He might be on one of my courses. I would invite him. I have the best courses in the world. I have one right next to the White House."
13/14 On himself:
"Love him or hate him, Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money."
14/14 On America:
"The American Dream is dead. But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before and we will make America great again."
This led to an international backlash with one Saudi prince condemning the Mr Trump as a “disgrace” and calling for him to withdraw from the presidential contest. "You are a disgrace not only to the GOP [Grand Old Party, another name for the Republicans] but to all America," Prince Alwaleed, the chairman of Kingdom Holding, said on his Twitter account.
Other incendiary remarks from the firebrand include calling for a database of all Muslims in the country to be set up, in order to track their movements, and launching his campaign with an attack on Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals and rapists.