First Look

Is Donald Trump fanning Islamophobia in the US?

Or is Donald Trump simply tapping into valid security concerns in the wake of the ISIS attack in Paris? 

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    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a Nov. 12 rally at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Bring on Trump, and Ben Carson, too. That’s what Democratic insiders are saying about the Republican outsiders who sit solidly atop preference polls in the race for the GOP nomination for president.
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In the aftermath of the deadly Paris attacks, cities around the globe may be feeling vulnerable and are struggling to balance a need for security-at-any-cost with basic civil rights.

Mosques and Muslim organizations from Omaha to Florida have reported hate crimes in recent days. A volunteer and teacher at the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg, Fla., mosque told federal authorities that a caller threatened to "firebomb" the mosque and shoot people in the head. The caller said Friday's attacks in Paris were "the last straw," reported The Associated Press.

The mosque canceled prayer; St. Petersburg Police added extra patrols following the threat. On Monday, the FBI said the threats were not credible. 

Meanwhile presidential hopefuls are crafting their responses to the attacks, preparing for a topic that is likely to become a focal theme in the presidential race going forward

Republican candidate Donald Trump told MSNBC Monday that he would consider closing US mosques with radical leaders if he were elected president.

"I would hate to do it, but it's something that you're going to have to strongly consider," Mr. Trump said.

He also said Americans have to reassess some of their civil liberties in response to growing threats from Islamic State terrorists.

"We have to be much tougher," he said in another interview on CNBC, reports the AP. "We are going to have to give up certain privileges that we've always had."

In fact, Trump's comments echo those made by Belgium's prime minister.

Belgium is doing some public soul-searching to determine why radical Islam has flourished there. The mayor of the Brussels district of Molenbeek, a run-down neighborhood that’s home to predominantly Muslim immigrants, called it "a breeding ground for violence." 

Belgian police have raided Molenbeek addresses arresting seven people in connection with Friday’s attacks. Two of the Paris attackers were Frenchmen residing in Belgium, reports Business Insider. 

"Almost every time, there is a link to Molenbeek," said the country’s 39-year-old centrist prime minister Charles Michel, whose government is battling radical Islamists who have recruited hundreds of Belgians to fight in Syria.

Mr. Michel has threatened to close “certain radical mosques” in Molenbeek that security services view as a launch pad for terrorism, reports the Financial Times.

Though Jamal Ikazban, a socialist lawmaker in the Brussels parliament, said that won’t address the heart of the problem, which he identifies as lack of investment in education and housing that created the economic and social weakness that inspired young radicals to thrive in the Brussels neighborhood.

“Religion is not the main access point [to radicalisation],” Mr. Ikasban told the Financial Times. “It is that they cannot see any future for themselves.”

This is what the New York Police Department, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, had determined when it abandoned a program last year that spied on Muslim residents following lawsuits and complaints.

But Trump criticized the decision to fold the NYPD program, calling for greater surveillance in and around mosques.

"Well you're going to have to watch and study the mosques because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques," Trump said.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported recently, for many American Muslims, the past year has been one of the most difficult in recent memory. Some have even compared the current climate to the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Farris Barakat, who has turned to his faith as he grieves after the murder of his brother, his brother’s wife, and her sister in a February attack in North Carolina that many Muslims point to as the most extreme example of anti-Muslim violence this year.

“I do think it’s become a very monumental time for the Muslim American narrative,” Mr. Barakat says in a phone interview. “But the enemy is not the individuals, the enemy is ignorance.”

 
 
 

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