UPDATE: 10:49 p.m. EDT — A spokesman for the New York Police Department on Tuesday slammed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's call to "patrol and secure" Muslim neighborhoods. "Are our nearly 1,000 Muslim officers a 'threat' too? It's hard to imagine a more incendiary, foolish statement," J. Peter Donald wrote.
Hey, @tedcruz are our nearly 1k Muslim officers a "threat" too? It's hard to imagine a more incendiary, foolish statement
— J. Peter Donald (@JPeterDonald) March 23, 2016
After the terrorist attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz called for the exclusion of refugees from countries with “a significant al Qaeda or ISIS presence.” He added that Muslim neighborhoods in the United States should be monitored as well.
“We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” the U.S. senator from Texas said in a statement.
His remarks drew ire and ridicule from Muslims and non-Muslims alike who said his proposal was discriminatory, impractical and useless for stamping out terrorism.
The Council on American Islamic Relations, a national advocacy group that has been the target of criticism from some on the right, was swift in its condemnations, both of the attacks in Brussels and of Cruz’s comments.
“It’s really beyond belief that you have one of the leading presidential candidates calling for law enforcement to target religious communities totally based on the fact that they are of a particular faith,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told the Washington Post.
“In normal times, this would be the sort of thing that would disqualify someone from running for dogcatcher, much less president of the United States,” Hooper continued. “We call on voters to reject this. It just shows you what happens when you appoint policy advisers like Frank Gaffney and Jerry Boykin to your team.”
Gaffney, who worked at the Pentagon during the Reagan administration, is one of Cruz’s foreign policy advisers and has called Barack Obama “America’s first Muslim president.” He has been accused of peddling bizarre conspiracy theories about Muslims. Boykin, who served as a deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence under George W. Bush, has said “there is no greater threat to America than Islam.”
Of course, Cruz’s call for monitoring Muslim neighborhoods is hardly a new idea. The New York City Police Department initiated a secret surveillance program of Muslims in the New York and New Jersey areas in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The program was dismantled after it was exposed by an Associated Press investigation in 2011.
Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy organization that filed a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s program, also condemned Cruz’s proposal to patrol Muslim neighborhoods.
“Let us be clear: targeting Americans based solely on their faith is not only bigoted and wrong, it undermines our safety by wasting precious law enforcement resources. Now more than ever, we need law enforcement focused on following legitimate leads and credible intelligence, not engaged in blanket, unconstitutional surveillance,” the group wrote a statement emailed to International Business Times.
Even Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who earlier Tuesday, after the news from Brussels, said there should be a “pause” on the number of Syrian refugees coming into the United States, denounced Cruz’s proposal.
“In our country, we don’t want to create divisions where we say OK, well your religion, you’re a Muslim, and therefore we’re going to keep an eye on you,” Kasich told reporters. “I do think it is important that we are able to have the intelligence to let our law enforcement and intelligence officials know who is radicalized. I mean, that’s a given. But the last thing we need is more polarization because, frankly, for those who want to preserve Islam as a religion that is not at war with the West, we alienate them. How are we ever supposed to get the information we need?”
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, also weighed in, calling Cruz a "disgrace" for his remarks, characterizing them as a "shameful display of hate that only serves to foment anger and make the world less secure."
Meanwhile, Twitter users posted scathing comments about the senator’s statement, often riduculing the idea.
So @tedcruz, after you have police patrolling & securing Muslim neighborhoods, do you want to affix them with a special symbol or anything?
— Kelsey D. Atherton (@AthertonKD) March 22, 2016
— AlGiordano (@AlGiordano) March 22, 2016
Ted Cruz wants to "secure Muslim neighborhoods." I'm the only Muslim in my building, does that still count as a Muslim neighborhood?
— Dean Obeidallah (@Deanofcomedy) March 22, 2016
Ted Cruz called for patrolling "Muslim neighborhoods." So, that means Brooklyn, Washington DC, Detroit, Houston, San Jose, Chicago? Got it.
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) March 22, 2016
Isn't securing Muslim Americans basically the same thing we did to Japanese Americans back in the 40s? Wrong then, wrong now @tedcruz.
— Ω Swampton Yuppie Ω (@thePMASH) March 22, 2016