Ted Cruz and His Entire Staff Refused to Meet With Muslim Constituents

News & Politics

Ted Cruz has made policing and surveilling Muslims a centerpiece of presidential campaign, calling for patrols of "Muslim neighborhoods" (he could not name a single one) and appointing notorious anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists as his foreign policy advisors.

But when his own Muslim constituents asked the senator to sit down for a meeting on Monday, as part of a more than 300-person National Muslim Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, Cruz and his entire staff refused.

Alia Salem, executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was one of more than a dozen people who traveled from Texas to Washington to meet with their elected representatives.

She says she had hoped to talk to Cruz—or his relevant staffers, given that the senator is on the campaign trail—about the necessity of condemning Islamophobia, addressing urban food deserts, reconsidering certain credit policies and addressing concerns about the government’s “Countering Violent Extremism” program.

Yet, despite contacting his office numerous times weeks ahead of the visit, neither Cruz nor his staffers would agree to meet. At one point, Cruz’s office said they would put Advocacy Day participants in touch with an unnamed foreign policy advisor for Cruz, but Salem rejected this offer. “I said no, we’re American Muslims here to talk about U.S. issues,” she told AlterNet. “We want to speak with the chief of staff or legislative aid or other staff—anyone who would be relevant to the policies we would like to address.”

CAIR’s multiple follow-up requests went unanswered, making Cruz the only one of 23 Texas lawmakers CAIR contacted who categorically refused Muslim constituents’ requests. When members of the organization showed up at Cruz’s office on Monday morning, they were told by interns that no one was available to meet with them.

"This is an indication of what a Cruz presidency would look like," said Salem. "As Texans, it's really insulting that we would travel all the way from Texas to meet with our elected official and not be given 15 minutes of a staffer's time. They just completely declined to meet with us. But it's their job requirement to listen to their constituents. The fact that they would not even give us the time of day is disgusting."

While Advocacy Day participants received radio silence from the presidential hopeful's office (the senator was reportedly campaigning in Maryland on Monday), Cruz’s foreign policy advisor for his presidential campaign, Frank Gaffney, published an editorial in the Hill accusing the organizers of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Congress is on notice: As long as organizations associated with Islamic supremacism like the USCMO and its member organizations dominate ‘Muslim Advocacy Day’ on Capitol Hill, it will actually be Muslim Brotherhood Advocacy Day,” he wrote. “And legislators should have nothing to do with either its participants or its programs.”

Frank Gaffney is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, the think tank that produced the shoddy research behind Donald Trump’s infamous proposed ban on non-American Muslim from entering the United States.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes him as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes. Gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within, Gaffney believes that ‘creeping Shariah’ or Islamic religious law, is a dire threat to American democracy.”

Gaffney was banned from the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference for accusing numerous right-wing leaders of direct ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and he has levied similar accusations against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“Everybody is the Muslim Brotherhood for Gaffney,” said Oussama Jammal, secretary general of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, which coordinated the Advocacy Day. “This is nonsense. This is preposterous.”

Alia emphasized, “It’s disturbing that a presidential candidate would bring on somebody so far out of the realm of reality to advise him on policy. It’s really dangerous and scary. Where is our country headed?”

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