Ted Cruz on Tuesday called for law enforcement to step up their policing of Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. in the wake of terrorist attacks in Brussels that ISIS is claiming responsibility for.
The Texas senator said in a statement, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” adding that the U.S. can no longer afford to “political correctness.”
“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. 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 said in the statement.
Cruz’s comments are not the first time the Republican presidential candidate has called for policies that would single out Muslims. The Texas senator argued in November that the U.S. should shut its doors to Muslim refugees from Syria, only allowing Christian refugees to seek asylum in the U.S.
Cruz’s call drew a swift rebuke from GOP presidential rival Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“We are not at war with Islam, we are at war with radical Islam,” Kasich said during a news conference. “Just because you happen to be a Muslim does not mean you want to destroy someone in the West…. The last thing we need is more polarization because for those who want to preserve Islam in the west, we alienate them.”
Still, Kasich argued the U.S. has been “too lax and not aggressive enough” in its response to terrorism.
Wasserman Schultz was blunter.
“Ted Cruz is a disgrace,” the Florida congresswoman said, adding that the freshman senator’s statement amounted to “fear-mongering.”
“His comments today were worse than opportunistic and inappropriate politicking in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Brussels — they were a shameful display of hate that only serves to foment anger and make the world less secure,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.
Cruz campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart said that a stepped-up police presence in Muslim neighborhoods “will both identify problem spots and partner with non-radical Americans who want to protect their homes.”
And she reiterated that the U.S. cannot allow “political correctness to drive decisions about our security” and warned that a failure to act would result in problems of radicalization that authorities are dealing with in some Muslim neighborhoods in Europe.
“Innocent, peaceful Americans, no matter their faith, deserve to live in safe neighborhoods; that is what law enforcement exists to do, and that includes preventing radical Islamic terror cells from taking root in them. The police should have every tool available to follow leads and take action against those who would do us harm,” she said in an email.
While Kasich and Cruz have both called for stops on resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S., neither have gone as far as Republican front-runner Donald Trump who has called for banning all foreign Muslims from entering the U.S.
Cruz has said he disagrees with Trump’s proposal but also said he “understands” why the real estate mogul called for the ban.