Liberal John McCallum and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander had such a heated exchange over Muslim Canadians in question period Thursday that, after it was over, New Democrat Peggy Nash could only say, “Whoa.”

It started when McCallum asked Alexander whether he would apologize to Muslim Canadians, claiming Alexander implied that “all Muslim women who wear the veil are terrorists unless proven otherwise.”

McCallum was referring to comments Alexander made in an interview with Vice published Wednesday.

In that interview, Alexander was responding to questions about a court case with a woman who wants to wear a niqab (a female Muslim face veil) during her citizenship ceremony.

“Until this court decision last year -- which we think was very mistaken and that's why we're appealing it -- there was no controversy about this, and the overwhelming majority of people were happy to be seen and heard taking the oath,” Alexander told Vice’s Justin Ling.

“The overwhelming majority of Canadians want that rule to continue to apply. We've done a lot in the past year to strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. People take pride in that. They don't want their co-citizens to be terrorists.”

Alexander has said he was referring to terrorists in the wider context of strengthening Canada’s immigration laws, and was not referring to Canadians who wear niqabs. Ling has agreed in his own response to the interview.

In question period, McCallum threw another volley at Alexander and the Conservatives, accusing them of “toxic anti-Muslim terrorist rhetoric,” and calling Stephen Harper “the only Prime Minister in my lifetime who seeks to attack a whole community for political gain.”

Alexander responded that his was the only government taking action “to protect Muslims and other Canadians from the threat of terrorism.”

“I would invite that member to apologize for decades of racism by his party under Mackenzie King blocking South Asians from coming to this country, blocking East Asians from coming to this country, blocking Caribbeans from coming to this country, the injustice of backlogs under the Trudeau regime and the Chretien era,” Alexander fired back.

“It is that party that has been the racist party in this parliament over decades,” Alexander concluded.

Mackenzie King served six terms as prime minister, with the last ending in 1948, two years before McCallum was born in 1950.