Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday called for increased watch on Muslim neighborhoods in the United States in the wake of deadly terror attacks in Belgium.
Cruz's comments ignited a firestorm in political circles and amongst American Muslims.
"We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al-Qaeda or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized," Cruz said in a statement released on Tuesday morning.
"For years, the west has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear. We can no longer afford either. Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods."
Cruz's remarks happened in the midst of a fierce battle with businessman Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump made waves last fall when he called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. He reiterated that position in interviews on Tuesday.
Muslim leaders in North Texas said they were just as horrified as everyone else at the deadly attacks that left at least 31 dead in Brussels, but they were also horrified at the response of Cruz and Trump.
"I think it's reprehensible for someone who is vying to be our leader and our commander in chief," said Alia Salem, Executive Director of the DFW chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations.
When pressed by reporters, the Cruz campaign offered no clarification as to how neighborhoods would be patrolled and secured.
"My reaction is one of disgust for him to take something so horrible and terrible and use it for a political platform to further his agenda and speak to a certain segment of the population who is whipped up by this kind of fear mongering," Salem said.