In a message titled We Can No Longer Surrender to the Enemy Through Political Correctness, Ted Cruz announced, after the terrorist attack in Brussels last week:
We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized. We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration. And we need to execute a coherent campaign to utterly destroy ISIS. The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we are are at an end.
Were you unaware that the United States has been “voluntarily surrendering” to the enemy?
And, like almost everyone else hearing this, were you wondering where these Muslim neighborhoods are?
Many were puzzled, including former Houston City Council Member M. J. Khan, who explained:
“I live on a street where I’m the only Muslim within two, three blocks, so unless he plans to put a patrol car in front of my house and every Muslim house, it will be difficult for him to patrol neighborhoods and Muslim houses.”
Many joked about it, but those who did were not the ones Cruz was targeting with his message. Once again, he was speaking to a small segment of voters. He never misses an opportunity to speak in coded language directed at those on the far, far right—a population that has been, dare we say it, radicalized by a constant torrent of propaganda from talk radio, cable “news,” and fantastically paranoid websites.
The particular story Cruz is referencing when he describes “Muslim neighborhoods” is, like all good myths, based on a kernel of truth.
On December 12, 2005, the New York Times published an article about the extreme poverty and isolation in the slums and suburbs of Paris, which included this description of one town:
Branded by France’s police intelligence agency as one of the country’s 150 “no go zones,” where police officers should enter only with major reinforcements, La Courneuve was caught up in the violence in which rioters torched cars, trashed businesses and ambushed the police.
In this article, no go zones were shorthand for police safety protocols. No law enforcement agency sends officers alone into potentially dangerous situations.
Ask any city-dweller about no go zones, and they can tell you places they might not feel comfortable going at night, or that they wouldn’t recommend a stranger visit. Central Park at night, housing projects, bars near the port, the blocks around a bus station … we intuitively understand why some people might consider these spaces no go zones, and we also understand that we have not surrendered them to anyone else, but are merely being cautious.
What no go zones have come to mean on the radical right is very different, and it is this meaning that Cruz was invoking.
The myth that has sprung up is best captured in this Fox News clip, for which the network actually issued a retraction and apology after a complaint from the English Prime Minister:
The commentator claims that there are hundreds of areas across Europe where Sharia courts have been set up, where non-Muslims are not allowed to go, and where the nation no longer has sovereignty. He went on to say that Birmingham, in England, was one of these zones, and that special Muslim police in some areas of London beat and “wound” people not dressed appropriately.
It bears repeating: this is not true. None of this is true.
It is not true in Europe, and it is not true in the United States.
It is definitely not true in Texas, where a story about a religious-based mediation service was twisted into warnings about the establishment of a no go zone deep in the heart of Dallas, where Sharia law would be the law of the land.
Ted Cruz knows there are no such things as Muslim-controlled no go zones. He understands the difference between a religious mediation between two willing parties and forcing people in the United States to be subjected to that religious law.
And yet, patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods was the phrase he used. Not in a casual, off-the-cuff remark, but in a deliberately composed press release.
New York City’s police chief, hardly a noted civil libertarian, but definitely someone who has sworn to uphold the constitution, was one of many who responded to Cruz’s outrageous statement:
We do not ‘patrol and secure’ neighborhoods based on selective enforcement because of race or religion, nor will we use the police and an occupying force to intimidate a populace or a religion to appease the provocative chatter of politicians seeking to exploit fear.
Cruz spent hours memorizing the constitution as a teenager. He brags about it. So why is he pretending he doesn’t understand it?
Carly Fiorina was right (before she was wrong), when she warned that Ted Cruz “says whatever he needs to say to get elected.”
That’s not leadership.