WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – Sen. Ted Cruz caused a surge of outrage and consternation following the Brussels terror attacks, when he called for American police to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.”

The freshman Texas senator, who’s running second to a tough-talking Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican polls, cited ISIS-directed attacks on Brussels’ airport and metro system as cause for stepped up monitoring of Muslims in America, who may be prone to radicalization.

“We need a president who sets aside political correctness. In the wake of Brussels, we don’t need another lecture from President Obama on Islamophobia,” said Cruz.

Outrage pours in

Critics in the political and religious spheres immediately condemned Cruz’s statement, which they cast as a brazen political ploy to inflame fears and capture conservative votes. Mashable’s executive editor tweeted that Cruz now “competes with Donald Trump on [the] xenophobia front.”

Statistician Nate Silver suggests the reason Cruz and Trump displayed an eagerness to discuss the issue is because Trump climbed 7 percent in the polls after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks.

“His proposal is dangerous, hateful and unbefitting of one of the leading presidential candidates… and it is unconstitutional,” Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told Politico.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a fellow 2016 GOP hopeful, blasted Cruz’s approach, insisting that the America is “not at war with Islam; we are at war with radical Islam.”

Considering the breadth of Cruz’s proposed domestic patrols, Joel Pavelski of Mic News asked, “How do conservatives favor limited government again?”

For the time being, Cruz is standing by his statements.

Meanwhile, Trump tweeted following the deadly Brussels attacks: “I have proven to be far more correct about terrorism than anybody – and it’s not even close.”Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales