[This story has been updated — see bottom.]
Practically before the dust even had a chance to settle in Brussels, where ISIS attackers killed dozens of people in multiple explosions this morning, Sen. Ted Cruz released a statement ramping up his familiar anti-Muslim rhetoric to another level, calling for U.S. law enforcement to "patrol and secure" American neighborhoods where Muslims live.
This isn't the first time Cruz has issued a knee-jerk reaction to tragic terrorist attacks. After the Paris attacks in November, Cruz said he would somehow ban Muslim Syrians from entering the United States (but he would let Christians in without a hiccup). After the apparently ISIS-fueled San Bernardino shooting in December, Cruz came out and said he would "carpet bomb" the militant group into oblivion, which, well, would never work and would have been a pretty horrible idea for a lot of reasons.
Cruz had never overtly mentioned singling out American Muslims, until now. It is unclear how Cruz would "empower law enforcement" to do this, what exactly he means by "patrol and secure," or even what "Muslim neighborhoods" he would focus on.
"It's shocking that a presidential candidate would target Americans just because of their religious affiliation," Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a phone interview. "It is unconstitutional, un-American and unbefitting for one of the leading presidential candidates to spread fear, hysteria and discriminate against Muslim Americans. His statement should be condemned by all Americans."
According to the 2010 religious census, Texas has more Muslims than any other U.S. state, and Houston leads the way in the Lone Star State — about 1.2 percent of the city's population is Muslim, with about 80 mosques and more than ten Muslim schools throughout the area. Whether we should expect to see police suddenly saturate the city's Muslim centers at the request of our state's junior senator is currently unclear.
[UPDATE]: 4:02 p.m.
The Cruz campaign released a statement in an attempt to clarify what Cruz said earlier in the day about "empowering law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods." Cruz certainly did not walk back his statements, instead suggesting law enforcement agencies at all levels should have special units dedicated to targeting "threats" like "radical Islamic terrorism," and should have "every tool available... to take action."
"We know what is happening with these isolated Muslim neighborhoods in Europe," the new statement says. "If we want to prevent it from happening here, it is going to require an empowered, visible law enforcement presence that will both identify problem spots and partner with non-radical Americans who want to protect their homes."
What "non-radical" means here is anyone's guess, but Cruz did appear to at least present a model for his plan, citing New York City's "efforts... to work with Muslim communities to stop radical Islamic terrorism," at least before current Mayor Bill de Blasio "succumbed to unfounded criticisms and eliminated the efforts."
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It sounds a lot like Cruz is referring to the New York Police Department's old covert campaign of racial profiling and spying on innocent Muslims, which was actually "eliminated" because it was ineffective and illegal, not, as Cruz said, because of "political correctness."
[UPDATE]: 5:38 p.m
Terri Burke, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, sent us the following statement regarding Cruz's comments:
“To suggest we should police one group of people because of the Brussels attack suggests the speaker doesn’t know the saddest parts of our American history. We need not repeat those mistakes. If we rounded up every group whose members have railed against our government, there would be no citizens left. Racial profiling is racial profiling and that is contrary to our values.”