Gov. Bobby Jindal doubled down on claims he made this week that Europe is home to several “no-go zones” — alleged Muslim enclaves that are ruled by Islamic law and where non-Muslims aren’t allowed.
Jindal, who is weighing a run for president and is likely to face a crowded field of Republican opponents if he does, has endured a backlash since evoking the “no-go zone” claims in a speech Monday during a meeting with a conservative think tank in London.
He’s been a fixture on cable news networks and made headlines around the globe, with pundits arguing that his claims are false or exaggerated.
But on Tuesday, the Governor’s Office released a 1,700-plus-word response titled, “Setting the record straight: Reports of ‘no-go zones’ in Europe.” It cites half a dozen reports of what Jindal says are examples of the situations to which his speech was referring. Jindal’s supporters say that the governor’s comments have been blown out of proportion — unfairly tied to a large-scale, debunked myth when he was referring to areas where non-Muslims face harassment or intimidation. The reports his office cites in its “setting the record straight” email range from reports of rogue vigilante squads to otherwise unsafe districts.
Jindal is expected to reiterate his comments on Wednesday.
In a separate email to supporters Tuesday, Jindal’s Stand Up to Washington political action committee, which has been used to promote conservative candidates and causes, also struck back at Jindal’s critics and asked for donations to help “the fight to reclaim America.”
“We both know many members of the press have their own agenda — but this is beyond the pale,” wrote Timmy Teepell, a key Jindal political aide.
Jindal has argued that his speech was pointing out neighborhoods where women don’t feel safe without veils and where police are hesitant to go because radical Islam has taken over.
“(I)n the West, non-assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much of Sharia law as they can without regard for the laws of the democratic countries which provided them a new home,” Jindal said in his speech to the conservative Henry Jackson Society. “It is startling to think that any country would allow, even unofficially, for a so-called ‘no-go zone.’ ”
Like many other countries, Britain and France have crime-plagued neighborhoods where outsiders risk muggings and violence. In Europe, some of these areas are predominantly Muslim, in large part because they were settled by poor families from former colonies with Muslim majorities.
While drug gangs and radical imams sometimes vie for influence in these zones, none is subject to the rule of Sharia. Muslims in some European countries can legally consult Sharia councils — often erroneously called Sharia courts — for the settlement of family disputes. But these councils have never replaced the law of the land or the authority of police and courts.
Jindal, who was due to return to Louisiana on Tuesday evening, has been courting the Christian right as he considers a presidential run. On Saturday, he’ll host a prayer rally at LSU that’s expected to draw thousands of evangelicals. He also recently traveled to Iowa to meet with conservative pastors there.
But he has yet to draw momentum in the polls that he would need to defeat more marquee names in the GOP primary. A CBS News poll released this weekend found just 14 percent of Republicans want to see Jindal run for president, while a majority didn’t know enough about him.
During his state-sponsored 10-day trip to Europe, which was billed as an economic development mission, he squeezed in several political meetings. Those meetings included a round-table discussion with conservative political groups and an education policy discussion with Michael Gove, a conservative member of Parliament who previously served as U.K. education secretary.
Jindal’s no-go zone comments largely have been lumped in with recent remarks made by a Fox News commentator, who had gone a step further, claiming that entire cities in Europe had become no-go zones and were ruled by Islamic extremists. Fox News has retracted those statements. British Prime Minister David Cameron called the pundit who made those claims “a complete idiot,” and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced plans to sue Fox News over the report.
“This is the sort of ill-informed fantasy that plays well in certain right-wing circles,” wrote Jay Parini, a poet and novelist who teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont. “This probably works for Jindal back home in Louisiana.”
Meanwhile, MSNBC has cut ties with a guest who made a racially charged remark directed at Jindal, whose parents are from India.
Addressing Jindal’s no-go zone comments, commentator Arsalan Iftikhar said Jindal “might be trying to scrub some of the brown off his skin.”
An MSNBC spokesperson later told CNN that Iftikhar’s comments were “offensive and unacceptable, and we don’t plan on inviting him back.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.