DHAKA - Religious leaders in Asia on Thursday condemned Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments on Muslims, warning that the US presidential hopeful was helping the Islamic State group’s cause and diminishing America’s global stature.

In Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh, together home to more than a third of the world’s 1.5 billion followers of Islam, anger at the bouffant billionaire’s incendiary proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States ran high.

Amid fears his comments would fuel extremist violence, the leader of a Pakistani seminary attended by Taliban militants decried the comments as emblematic of Western “aggression” towards Islam.

“Trump’s statement is part of a strong hatred and grudge against Muslims,” Maulana Sami-ul-Haq told AFP.

Pakistani Facebook user Sanaullah Abro expressed faith in the American voters, writing: “I don’t think American people are so stupid to elect him”. “His hate speech will spread violence not only in the United States but also across the globe,” a post by Bangladeshi Facebook user Sameer Hassan read.

In Indian Held Kashmir, Syed Ali Geelani described Trump’s call as indicative of an “imperialistic and sick mindset”. “We strongly condemn the California massacre but the whole Muslim community can’t be held responsible for the actions of an individual,” he said in a statement.

Leading Bangladeshi cleric Fariduddin Masud told AFP the remarks fed IS propaganda that sought to depict a grand war between Islam and the West.

“By uttering such a hate-spreading statement, Donald Trump has committed a crime by indirectly helping the cause of so-called global Islamist militants such as Islamic State,” the chairman of the Jamiatul Ulama Bangladesh, an Islamic scholars council, told AFP.

The Republican frontrunner’s remarks came after an apparently radicalised Muslim couple shot dead 14 people at a workplace party in the Californian town of San Bernardino this month.

Trump’s demand for a moratorium on Muslims entering the United States until politicians “can figure out what was going on” was roundly condemned, although fellow Republican contender Ted Cruz and some conservative commentators praised the call.

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Zuhairi Misrawi, an Islamic scholar from Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, said the call was “a step backwards for American democracy”. “We previously regarded America as a role model for democracy, equality, peace and justice,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gulf Arab leaders condemned “hostile, racist” remarks against Muslims and Syrian refugees on Thursday, days after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a ban Muslims entering the United States.

“The supreme council expressed its deep concern at the increase of hostile, racist and inhumane rhetoric against refugees in general and Muslims in particular,” the Gulf Cooperation Council said, referring to a GCC heads of state meeting in Riyadh. It called for “providing the necessary protection for the displaced and refugees who are fleeing the twin fires of unjust rule and terrorist groups.”