Columns

Muslim Congressman: Cruz, Trump Exploiting Brussels Attacks 'to Make Electoral Gains'

People demonstrate in the street as police cars pass outside the Triple S convenience store during a rally after Alton Sterling, a black man, was shot and killed Tuesday, in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, July 6, 2016. The U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation Wednesday into the video-recorded police killing of Sterling, who authorities say had a gun as he wrestled with two white officers on the pavement outside a convenience store. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

One of two Muslim lawmakers in the U.S. Congress accused Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Donald Trump of making a “political football” out of the twin terror attacks in Brussels this week.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said the GOP presidential candidates were trying “to exploit this in order to make electoral gains.”

Ellison told MSNBC on Wednesday that he’s “a few blocks away” from where Cruz “might be talking about in terms of Muslim neighborhoods” and extra patrols.

“We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” Cruz said in a statement after the attacks, adding that the U.S. can’t tolerate “political correctness” in this era.

“This neighborhood is full of excellent, hardworking, patriotic people who love this country and make it better all the time. I’m offended for them. I’m offended with them. And we’re not going to let go of our American value system just because Cruz is scared and doesn’t want to actually do the hard work of making America safe but would rather just scapegoat a religious minority,” Ellison said.

The congressman called for a “greater amount of integration, build relationships, we’ve got to, you know, make sure that we’re monitoring people who actually are showing signs of radicalization, not just their religion, but actually doing things that raise legitimate concern.”

“And it’s important to have great relationships within the Muslim community.”

Ellison said “as many as a third of the attacks or potential attacks have been reported and thwarted by Muslims.”

“The greater majority of domestic terrorist attacks are not by Muslims at all, they’re by people like Timothy McVeigh. And so, you know, we’ve got to understand terrorism as a generalized threat, various ideologies that drive it… I think we can get through this, but people like Trump and Cruz are not helping,” he said.

The congressman stressed that when he works out in the members’ gym on the Hill each morning and chats with Republican colleagues “many of them know that this is not acceptable” in terms of rhetoric.

“So, it’s not as if all the Republicans are following them down this ugly, dark path. I would simply encourage my friends — we can argue about taxes and spending all you want, but can we say that we’re not going to scapegoat and demonize Americans based on religion?” Ellison said. “A lot of Republicans are sick of it, too. But it’s time for good people to stand up and be counted. That’s what time it is right now.”