Ted Cruz Just Showed Us Exactly How NOT to Respond to the Belgium Attacks

March 22nd 2016

Kylie Cheung

In the wake of terror attacks in Brussels Tuesday for which ISIS claimed responsibility, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz called for a ban on certain kinds of refugees and proposed law enforcement patrols in "Muslim neighborhoods." His proposals drew sharp criticism for promoting racism and for fear-mongering.

“We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant Al Qaeda or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized," Cruz said in a statement. The Texas senator claimed there was a direct link between accepting refugees and increased terror attacks: "Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods."

Cruz identified refugees and border weakness as causes of radical Islamic terrorism and blamed "fear and political correctness" in the West. "For years, the West has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear. We can no longer afford either," he said.

Later, in response to questioning by CNN's Anderson Cooper, Cruz denied that he was calling for "targeting Muslims."

"It means targeting radical Islamic terrorism,” Cruz said, adding: "I'm talking about any area where there is a higher incidence of radical Islamic terrorism." When asked to specify areas with higher incidences of radical Islamic terrorism, Cruz demurred and did not identify specific areas.

Cruz's proposals drew criticism from several groups. The Council on American-Islamic Relations's Nihad Awad called them "dangerous, hateful and unbefitting of one of the leading presidential candidates" and "unconstitutional" in an interview with The New York Times.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement: “Ted Cruz is a disgrace. This is not leadership; it is fear-mongering for political gain. ... [The] hateful and divisive rhetoric of the GOP’s presidential candidates seems to reach new lows each day."

Several social media commenters noted that by stoking anti-Islamic sentiment, Cruz was playing into ISIS' plan to alienate Muslims from Western culture:

Cruz also took aim at the Obama administration on his Facebook page. Cruz speculated that "these terror attacks are no isolated incidents" and said they are "just the latest in a string of coordinated attacks by radical Islamic terrorists perpetrated by those who are waging war against all who do not accept their extreme strain of Islam."

"Radical Islam is at war with us. For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality. And the truth is, we can never hope to defeat this evil so long as we refuse to even name it," Cruz said. "That ends on January 20, 2017, when I am sworn in as president. We will name our enemy — radical Islamic terrorism. And we will defeat it."

Cruz's rival for the GOP nomination, front-runner Donald Trump called for the U.S. to "close up our borders" during and interview on the show "Fox and Friends."

"It’s going to get worse and worse because we are foolish, we are foolish. We can't allow these people, at this point, to come into the U.S.," Trump said.

For his part, GOP presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich assumed a more moderate tone, calling for the U.S. to strengthen its international alliances to fight terror attacks.

The Tuesday morning attack in Brussels killed at least 34 and injured at least 130. Belgian Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said that least one explosion was caused by a suicide bomber.

Sweeping generalizations about Islam have become common among the field of Republican presidential candidates since the Paris terror attacks last November. Trump at one point called for all American Muslims to be registered. Former Republican candidate Marco Rubio called for the shutdown of mosques.

Democratic candidates have largely steered away from such rhetoric while renouncing Islamophobia. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Tuesday offered condolences to those affected by the attacks and condemned terrorism.