Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has cited millions of followers of Islam living in peace in India to counter front-runner Donald Trump’s idea of banning Muslim immigrants to the United States.
Trump and his nearest rival Cruz may have kissed and made up on stage at the last Republican primary debate of the year, but their views on Islam remained poles apart.
“There are millions of peaceful Muslims across the world, in countries like India, where there are no problems that we are seeing in nations controlled by al-Qaida or ISIS, and we should direct at the problem, focus on the problem, and defeat radical Islamic terrorism,” 44-year-old Cruz said.
Participating in the fifth Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, he said it is not a war on a faith; it’s a war on a political and theocratic ideology that seeks to murder Americans.
“America is at war. Our enemy is not violent extremism. It is not some unnamed malevolent force. It is radical Islamic terrorist. We have a President who is unwilling to utter its name,” Cruz said.
A senator from Texas, Cruz’s popularity in recent weeks has gained ground but is still far behind Trump, who during the debate reiterated his position of a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US.
“We’re not talking about religion. We’re talking about security. Our country is out of control. People are pouring across the southern border. I will build a wall. It will be a great wall. People will not come in unless they come in legally. Drugs will not pour through that wall,” the 69-year-old Trump asserted.
Cruz, known for throwing sharp punches, has been careful not to attack Trump publicly and has generally seemed better disposed towards him than others.
But in a private speech to donors, which leaked, Cruz questioned Trump’s “judgement”, unwittingly triggering a war. Trump was prompt with his rebuttal, calling Cruz a “maniac”.
Trump didn’t stop at that. He became personal. “I do like Ted Cruz, but not a lot of evangelicals come out of Cuba,” he said, questioning his faith.
Cruz is of Cuban descent — and never fails to remind voters of that, unlike Bobby Jindal — and has positioned himself as an arch religious conservative to appeal to the party’s base.
Evangelical Christians believe in the Bible’s primacy, as against the church — Cruz’s father is an evangelical preacher — and are hugely influential in Iowa primary caucuses.