GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum argued Monday morning that the majority of Muslims in the U.S. and around the world are not trying to confront Islamic extremists.

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"There are Muslims in this country who are ... actually going out and trying to establish a 'reform Islam,' trying to deal with the problem, the cancer within Islam. And it's real," the former Pennsylvania senator said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"Many Muslims are simply not doing that," Santorum said.

Debate over the topic has swirled in the 2016 presidential campaign following a renewed focus on terrorism in the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

Donald Trump, who has been atop GOP polls for months, also sparked criticism when he proposed banning Muslim foreign nationals from entering the United States amid stoked terrorism fears.

"There are lots of Muslims out there who are actually trying to confront the cancer. And the bottom line is, most are not, and that's a problem," Santorum said Monday on MSNBC.

The runner-up for the 2012 GOP nomination has failed to gain traction in his current White House bid, lagging well behind several other candidates in national and early-state polling.