Washington: Coming down on President Donald Trump's executive order curbing immigration from select Muslim nations, his predecessor Barack Obama expressed his support to the protesters who have taken to the nation's airports to express their displeasure with Trump's announcement.
"President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. The President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion," said Kevin Lewis, spokesman for the former president, in a statement, CNN reports.
Lewis added Obama feels the individuals protesting are "exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake."
Since Trump came to power 10 days ago, this is the first time that Obama has taken on the new President, breaking with an unwritten rule that former presidents refrain from criticizing the current White House occupant.
The statement, which is also Obama's first since leaving the White House, also rejected the comparison between a 2011 temporary immigration order by Obama that halted Iraqis coming to the US and the broader ban by the Trump administration on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
Earlier, Trump had firmly defended his chaotically enforced ban and said "this is not a Muslim ban".
The U.S. President released a statement that insisted on the legality - and non-religious premise - of his orders to temporarily halt the admission of refugees and ban some travel.
"To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting," said Trump.
"This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe," Trump said, pledging to issue visas again "once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days".
However, the sudden order has left many people with legal visas, including refugees, stranded at airports in the US and the Middle East.
World leaders are opening their doors to those affected by the ban. Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada"
Trump's order also calls for a review into suspending the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allows travellers from 38 countries -- including close allies -- to renew travel authorizations without an in-person interview.