The good, the bad and the funny in media coverage of Ted Cruz's 'Muslim neighborhoods' remarks

Once again, Muslims in America are the focus of intense scrutiny — and they're not exactly happy about it.

Even in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's Brussels terror attacks, we knew this storyline was coming, of course.

In our post yesterday, we stressed:

Key, again, is factual reporting that highlights the various strains of Islam (as we have said a million times, there is "no one Islam") and avoids the simplistic "Islamophobia" propaganda that plagued so much of the coverage last time.

As the world focused its thoughts and prayers on the Belgium victims, the U.S. presidential race took no break at all.

In case you missed it — and I promise this is not from the satirical newspaper The Onion — Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz engaged in a Twitter spat over each other's wives:

But that wasn't the only news the candidates made Tuesday: How to prevent terrorism on U.S. soil again dominated the GOP rhetoric, and Muslims again figured heavily in the discussion:

Cruz drew a flood of media coverage with his call to crack down on "Muslim neighborhoods."

In the Texas senator's home state, the Houston Chronicle couldn't resist editorializing with a lede filled with scare quotes (or sarcasm quotes, as my colleague Jim Davis refers to them):

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has said there is a “war on faith” in this country and frequently touts his support of “religious liberty” laws, called for stepped-up police patrols of “Muslim neighborhoods” in the wake of Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels.

Elsewhere in the Lone Star State, the Dallas Morning News' front-page story on Cruz's remarks took a more evenhanded approach:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz called Tuesday for a security crackdown in “Muslim neighborhoods” in the wake of the latest European terrorist attacks — a tough step that drew immediate condemnation from American Muslims and civil libertarians.
“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 said in a written statement issued by his campaign. “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
The Council on American Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, warned that the senator’s plan smacks of a police state. The Anti-Defamation League, a major Jewish group, also condemned Cruz.
But the senator enjoyed support from rival Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, who embraced Cruz’s idea even as he upped the ante on tough talk by reviving demands for rewriting federal law to allow torture of jihadis, and for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The Dallas newspaper tackled a key question: What is a "Muslim neighborhood?":

Texas Muslim leaders accused Cruz of stirring bigotry in a quest for votes.
“These days, it’s open season against Muslims,” said M.J. Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston in Cruz’s hometown. “There seems to be a competition among some politicians as to who can attack Muslims more.”
He questioned the senator’s focus on “Muslim neighborhoods.”
“Except for maybe some parts of Detroit, I don’t think there’s any city in America where you would say, ‘OK, this is a Muslim neighborhood,’ ”Khan said. “The street that I live on, I’m the only Muslim family on that street.”
Imam Zia ul-Haque Sheikh, who leads the Islamic Center of Irving, echoed the sentiment. Even in areas with relatively high concentrations of Muslims in Irving, Richardson and Plano, it’s easy to buy alcohol or pork, he noted.

For those interested in the religion angle, the mention of alcohol and pork was a nice touch. However, I wish the Morning News had explained the significance rather than assuming that readers would know.

In Texas and nationally, media coverage of Cruz's comments — from CNN to The New York Times — touched on a variety of elements: politics, civil liberties, religious freedom and law enforcement.

The Washington Post quoted Ohio Gov. John Kasich, along with Trump and Cruz: 

Kasich struck a different tone on Cruz’s proposition. “We are not at war with Islam,” he told reporters while campaigning in Minnesota. “We are at war with radical Islam.”

Unlike the Texas newspapers, the Post also included remarks from the Democratic candidates, which seemed to provide a fuller picture.

With presidential primary season in full swing and the general election still many months away, don't expect this storyline to disappear anytime soon.

If you spot any particularly exceptional — or egregious — coverage, please don't hesitate to let us know. Tweet us at @GetReligion or leave a comment below.

For a lighter take, enjoy this one:

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