DEARBORN, Mich, March 23, (AP): Some American Muslims feel they are once again on the defensive following presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s suggestion that Muslim-dominated neighborhoods should be subject to increased surveillance in the wake of the deadly attacks in Brussels claimed by the Islamic State militant group.
“We’re targeted even if it’s not our fault,” said Omar Ghanim, 23, eating Lebanese pizza Tuesday at a suburban strip mall in Orange County’s Little Arabia neighborhood, just miles from Disneyland in California. Ghanim said Islamic State doesn’t represent his faith. “They don’t follow the Islamic rules or anything Islam,” he said. “We’re a peaceful people — we’re not violent.” Cruz said Tuesday that law enforcement should be empowered to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Echoing earlier statements from rival Donald Trump, Cruz also said the US should stop the flow of refugees from countries where the Islamic State militant group has a significant presence.
IS claimed responsibility for the attacks at the Brussels airport and a subway station that killed dozens Tuesday and wounded many more. Muslims across the county and groups including the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Anti-Defamation League condemned Cruz’s statements, but many said his reaction was nothing new. Advocacy groups have said for months that the Islamic extremist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino and the intensifying rhetoric in the presidential campaign have ratcheted up animosity against American Muslims.
“We believe we are part of the society. We have the same ideology as mainstream Americans,” said Osman Ahmed, a resident of a Somali neighborhood in Minneapolis. “I don’t think the ideology of surveillance of a Muslim community neighborhood is the right thing to do. That will send a message that Muslim Americans are not a part of American society … and that’s the message that terrorism groups are willing to hear.” Trump, who has proposed a temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the US praised Cruz’s plan as a “good idea” that he supports “100 percent” in an interview with CNN.
The Republican front-runner also intensified his past calls for the US to engage in harsher interrogation techniques, arguing that Belgium could have prevented the bombings had it tortured a suspect in last year’s Paris attacks who was arrested last week. Speaking Tuesday afternoon in New York, Cruz praised the city’s police department’s former program of conducting surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods, called for its reinstatement and said it could be a model for police departments nationwide. “New Yorkers want a safe and secure America,” Cruz said. “New Yorkers saw firsthand the tragic consequences of radical Islamic terrorism.” After the 9/11 attacks, the New York Police Department used its intelligence division to cultivate informants and conduct surveillance in Muslim communities. In a series of articles, The Associated Press revealed the intelligence division had infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds. The program was disbanded amid complaints of religious and racial profiling.