American Muslims React With Anger, Confusion To Cruz’s Patrol Plan

"Sorry, there are no 'Muslim neighborhoods' in the US. There's no nest of vipers for you to smoke out."

Ted Cruz thinks "Muslim neighborhoods" need some patrolling. — Spencer Platt
Mar 25, 2016 at 12:13 PM ET

In the race to see which GOP candidate could blame the recent terrorism in Brussels on the broader Muslim community most forcefully, Ted Cruz took first. Soon after a string of attacks left 31 dead in the Belgian capital, Senator Cruz had come out with his plan to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” in America.

Muslim Americans reacted swiftly, many with anger and doubts that such a plan is even constitutional. Others were more bemused—since America’s Muslim community seems unsure exactly where these dangerous “Muslim neighborhoods” are.

In a statement Cruz issued Tuesday, while the death toll in Brussels was still climbing, he wrote, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” His plan seems like an attempt to one-up his competitor, Donald Trump, who simply reiterated his controversial response to the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, calling for a ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S.

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The reaction to Cruz on social media, Vocativ found, was immediate and unforgiving. “Sorry, there are no ‘Muslim Neighborhoods’ in the US. There’s no nest of vipers for you to smoke out. No enemy territory to occupy,” wrote Tariq Bhatti on in a Facebook comment on Cruz’s page. “Odds are that you couldn’t identify a Muslim on the street if you saw one. Islam is not a race, remember?”

Bhatti continued. “It’s a belief system, and not even the NSA has mastered telepathy yet.”

The Muslim-American community includes American-born members and people originating from at least 77 different countries. They are more racially diverse than Americans as a whole, according to Pew Research. Less than one-third of Muslims describe themselves as white, 23 percent as black, 21 as Asian, six as Hispanic and 19 as other or mixed race.

Cruz’s idea that a community might be at a greater risk of harboring terrorists “doesn’t compare at all to reality,” said Laila Alawa, a Muslim American and media-company CEO told Vocativ. “It’s easier to infringe upon rights on a Muslim community, that’s otherwise seen as not a part of our fabric. That’s why it was OK for Ted to make these comments,” she said. “It’s a lot more comfortable to say we need to survey Muslims than it is to say we need to survey Americans.”

Others wondered about the proposal more practically. “Where are the Muslim neighborhoods which Cruz wants to patrol? May be we should move there,” Abdul Malik Mujahid wrote on Facebook. “In my observation wherever Muslims move to in Chicago, the property values go up, crimes go down, and drugs disappear.”

The U.S. Census doesn’t ask about religion, so it’s difficult to track exactly where Muslims live in the US—but it’s clearly true that compared to other European countries, the US is still a melting pot. That assimilation is a good thing, according to security experts.

“If you look at places like France, Islamic immigrants have been marginalized in society,” Todd Hulsey, who spent 16 years with the FBI and worked a lot with national security, told Vocativ earlier this week. “They’re put in camps and ghettos. We don’t marginalize [immigrants] the way they do in other countries. These things play a big role in radicalizing people,” he said.

That means that, per Hulsey’s assessment, Cruz’s plan—which would isolate “Muslim neighborhoods” (if he could even find them) and mark them as distinct from their surroundings—could have the unintended effect and serve as a boon to radicalization.

“Ted Cruz’s solution is batting at the few apples he can spot on the tree rather than getting to the root of the problem,” Alawa said. “And the root is how are we talking about American Muslims.”