Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz renewed his call to monitor Muslim neighborhoods on Monday, blaming nonexistent “no go zones” in Europe for allowing terrorists to plot the attacks that killed more than 30 people.
In an op-ed in the New York Daily News, the Texas senator claimed that law enforcement has been restrained from engaging with the Muslim community in “isolated enclaves” throughout Europe.
“One of the causes of this horror has been European bureaucrats restraining law enforcement from fully engaging with the Muslim community in ‘no go’ zones,” Cruz wrote. “As a result, for years, a radical, theocratic, violent ideology has spread in some mosques and Muslim neighborhoods throughout Europe. Terrorists have exploited these isolated enclaves to recruit followers, formulate plots and orchestrate attacks.”
The idea that extremists are creating “no go zones,” or areas in Europe and the United States governed by sharia law where non-Muslims are barred from entering, has been thoroughly debunked. European officials refuted the myth as idiotic, and even Fox News has admitted their segment on “no go zones” in Europe had serious factual errors.
The op-ed is a response to New York City’s police commissioner Bill Bratton, who sharply criticized Cruz’s proposal to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods. In his attempt to justify the Islamophobic policy, Cruz specifically pointed to a neighborhood in Brussels which many have referred to as Europe’s “jihadi central.”
“There is no better example of these ‘no go’ zones than one neighborhood in the city of this latest horrific attack — the municipality of Molenbeek in the city of Brussels,” he continued.
While Molenbeek is Europe’s source of the highest concentration of jihadi foreign fighters — at least three of the Paris attackers resided in the neighborhood, including Salah Abdeslam, who was captured there earlier this month — there is no factual basis to allegations that the area or other parts of Europe have turned into no-go zones that Muslim extremists have supposedly conquered and shut out law enforcement.
Nonetheless, Cruz continues to push the myth.
“It is telling that Abdeslam effectively hid in plain sight there for weeks in the same city as the headquarters of NATO and the European Union,” Cruz wrote.
Allegations by Belgian officials that the government did not “have control of the situation in Molenbeek” after the Paris attack were quickly put into context. The claim led many to revive the “no go zone” myth, which does not accurately illustrate the issues facing the largely Muslim suburb of Brussels.
The Guardian pointed out that Molenbeek is nothing more than a typical working-class neighborhood. Molenbeek has high levels of poverty and a youth unemployment rate of about 50 percent.
“The two streets where the weekend raids took place are anything but ghettoes or banlieues, home to restless and hostile throngs of Muslim youths. Both are neat and tidy lower middle-class concentrations of owner-occupied houses and decent apartments with their fair share of green spaces and handsome villas.”
And Los Angeles Times reporter Patrick J. McDonnell visited the neighborhood after the Paris attack and wrote: “Despite its tainted reputation, Molenbeek is not a place that seems especially threatening.”
Other Republican presidential candidates and prominent conservatives have also tried to spread the myth of “no go zones.” In December, former candidate Ben Carson claimed that the United States doesn’t “want the kind of situation that has occurred in Great Britain where you have 85 Sharia courts and no-go areas and things like that.”
Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) made a similar claim last year, but was widely derided by European officials, who called it “complete nonsense.” Fox News made several mentions of no-go zones, prompting British Prime Minister David Cameron to publicly refute the claim and even call one pundit “a complete idiot.” Fox later issued several apologies and admitted that no-go zones do not actually exist.
And during the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting last April, a prominent speaker claimed that he has witnessed the alleged “no-go zones” while shadowing a friend who serves on the Detroit Metro SWAT Police on a drive in Dearborn, Michigan.
“The people who perpetuate it use it for their own gain,” Dearborn’s mayor said about the “no go zones” term. “There are certain sites and individuals who like to perpetuate fear of Muslims.”