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Political opportunists use Brussels attacks to legitimize U.S. anti-Muslim rhetoric

posted on: Mar 22, 2016

BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer

Early this morning at 3 am E.T., Brussels suffered from two attacks. Waking up to this news, I immediately knew that today would be a difficult day for Muslims and Arabs across the country. Although it’s unknown who the attackers are, politicians are already putting Islam at the forefront of their statements.

The first explosion was a suicide attack in the departure hall of the Brussels Airport. The second attack took place about an hour later at the Maelbeek subway station. At least 34 people are reported dead, with over 170 people reported injured so far.

Major American and European cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., and London are increasing security on public transportation. Furthermore, Americans can expect an increase in federal law enforcement presence in their daily commutes. The FBI has stated that they are conducting 24/7 surveillance on roughly 100 people who are suspected of committing a terrorist attack.

These attacks come just days after Belgian officials arrested Salah Abdeslam – the last known member of the group of terrorists who executed the Paris attacks in November that killed 129 people. Although there are no claims of responsibility yet, European and American leaders are claiming that Islamic terrorists are responsible. Some leaders such as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz are calling these attacks an act of war.

The European Union’s open border policy is being criticized as a cause for the attacks, despite not knowing who the attackers were or why Brussels was the target. Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump even suggested that if Belgium had a wall on its borders, the attacks wouldn’t have happened. Trump also used the attacks to reiterate his stance on banning Muslims from migrating to the United States.

Political opportunists like Trump are using these attacks to gain support for bigoted and xenophobic policy proposals. This is not a solution to unpredictable acts of violence. Instead of focusing on the unnamed assailants, political leaders should be using this time to start productive conversations on why attacks happen. A high-level understanding of religious terrorism requires a deep examination into what motivates attackers, why a religion is used as a foundation for reasoning, and how Western policies play a role in the motivation.

Why is it that when a Muslim commits a crime, it becomes a matter of national security and requires a formal statement of condemnation by the president? When a deranged white man goes on a shooting spree, the media is not concerned about whether or not he was radicalized or what his country of origin is. When gang violence leaves four people shot in Detroit in an average week, we do not hear calls for banning people from migrating to the country.

I am not afraid to be near white men, even though they are most likely to use a weapon against me. I am not afraid to be in an urban city where gang violence can flourish under the poorly funded or corrupt police departments. And I am certainly not afraid of my Muslim neighbor, friend, coworker, or classmate.

Politicians have figured out that they can condition fear to be toward one group of people, but not another. By harnessing this fear of Muslims and forcing it to grow, politicians are using their power to legitimize the need for racist policies, which is just as dangerous as committing an act of violence. Today I will not let any politician tell me that I should be afraid of a Muslim or not welcome a Muslim into my country.