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Live Blog: Anti-Muslim Backlash Against Brussels Killings Begins

  Evacuees outside the Brussels airport Tuesday morning. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP)
Kasia Anderson
Deputy Editor
Kasia Anderson is a deputy editor at Truthdig. After graduating from Swarthmore College in 1997 with a degree in English literature and sociology, she worked as a Web journalist in San Francisco until 2000,…
Kasia Anderson
  

6:01 p.m. PST: According to The Associated Press, Islamic State has released a statement warning that Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels would be followed by more violence in other parts of the world:

The statement promises “dark days” for countries allied against the Islamic State, threatening that “what is coming is worse and more bitter.”

[… Islamic State] also released photos purportedly showing its fighters in Syria giving out candy to children to celebrate the Brussels attacks, according to SITE [an intelligence group that monitors jihadi websites].

* * *

2:45 p.m. PST: The following update comes to us from Truthdig columnist, author and political expert Bill Boyarsky:

The terrorist attack on Brussels, with its heavy toll of dead and wounded, will increase demands from Republicans and Democrats for surveillance and infiltration of American and foreign Muslim groups—and push non-Muslim America toward greater acceptance of police-state methods against believers of Islam, including surveillance of their mosques and daily life and more restrictions on travel.

It will also help make the presidential campaign a referendum on religious rights. That’s what Islamic State wanted to achieve with its latest attack and those in Paris and perhaps San Bernardino—to create fear and discord in Europe and in a United States already stressed by the divisive presidential campaign.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump was the first to jump on the issue, hitting the phone with calls to the morning television shows, saying that his tough-on-immigrants stand is responsible for his success in the polls and primaries. Republican candidate Sen. Ted Cruz demanded immigration restrictions and new powers for “law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

Mosque by mosque, house by house, store by store the Cruz-empowered police would search and round up anyone striking them as suspicious. Law offices would be scoured by cops. Muslims and their non-Muslim supporters would be subjected to heavy questioning.

President Obama said, “We must be together, regardless of nationality or race or faith” in fighting terrorism. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were on the same wavelength as the president. But they may find it difficult to be heard, with Trump and Cruz stirring up fears and appealing to a sizable streak of American intolerance.

In this atmosphere, it will take a brave person—politician or average citizen—to stand up for the rights of the besieged Muslim community.
* * *

2:35 p.m. PST: And now for Blame Obama: Rudy Giuliani edition. Making use of a tense and tragic moment, the former New York City mayor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate piled on the president on Fox News (via Media Matters for America):

* * *

2:31 p.m. PST: On the Democratic side of the aisle, Vermont Sen. Sanders had this to say earlier on Tuesday about the attacks in the European Union capital (via The New York Times):

“We offer our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this barbaric attack and to the people of Brussels who were the target of another cowardly attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. We stand with our European allies to offer any necessary assistance in these difficult times.

“Today’s attack is a brutal reminder that the international community must come together to destroy ISIS. This type of barbarism cannot be allowed to continue.”

Here’s Sanders’ rival, former Secretary of State Clinton, on Tuesday’s events (via Slate):

“Terrorists have once again struck at the heart of Europe, but their campaign of hate and fear will not succeed,” her campaign said in a statement. “The people of Brussels, of Europe, and of the world will not be intimidated by these vicious killers. Today Americans stand in solidarity with our European allies.

* * *

2:00 p.m. PST: More from the AP, this time on “three Kosovars”—people from the disputed Balkans territory of Kosovar—arrested by police in southern Germany: “According to the report, they were in a Belgian-registered car. However, the criminal police office said that there are no indications at this point of any link with Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels.”

On this side of the Atlantic, The Hill posted a follow-up to Cruz’s inflammatory comment, made earlier Tuesday, about domestic surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods:

Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign on Tuesday elaborated on his controversial call to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” in the wake of a terror attack in Brussels, Belgium, that left dozens dead and wounded.

“We know what is happening with these isolated Muslim neighborhoods in Europe,” the Cruz campaign said in a statement to The Hill. “If we want to prevent it from happening here, it is going to require an empowered, visible law enforcement presence that will both identify problem spots and partner with non-radical Americans who want to protect their homes.”

In the aftermath of the attack in Belgium, Cruz called for the U.S. to “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

–Posted by Kasia Anderson
* * *

1:24 p.m. PST: Currently trending on Twitter is #StopIslam, with almost 200,000 tweets using the hashtag.

Launched by those who blame the religion for Tuesday morning’s terrorist attacks in Brussels, the hashtag was immediately picked up by Twitter users criticizing those who began the trend.

As of this posting, most of the top tweets including #StopIslam pointed out the narrow-mindedness of blaming Muslims for atrocities committed by Islamic State.

“Terrorism has no religion,” one user said. Others pointed out the hypocrisy of blaming Muslims for terrorist acts when in the United States most mass shootings are perpetuated by white males.

Many users are calling on Twitter to stop the incendiary hashtag from spreading.

Although the hashtag is now backfiring as users call out its inherent Islamophobia, the fact that it surfaced so quickly after news of the Brussels attacks broke is a reminder of how Islamic State attempts to divide people through acts of terror.

–Posted by Emma Niles
* * *

12:21 p.m. PST: Belgian prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw remarked that it’s “too early to establish a link with the Paris attacks” and those that occurred Tuesday in his own country, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports.

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell commented on Islamic State’s growing ranks and strength on Tuesday’s edition of “CBS This Morning” (via RT):

“So I would say they’re winning, right? They’re winning, and we’re going to have to find additional approaches to try to undermine them,” Morell said.

Morell said he believes [Islamic State] has “more territory today around the world than they did at any time, and they’ve conducted now attacks in Paris, San Bernardino and now in Brussels.”

Following the Brussels attacks, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an international coalition founded in 1969 and comprising 57 member states, issued this press release:

Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s second largest inter-governmental body, strongly condemns terrorist attacks in Brussels

The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Iyad Ameen Madani, condemned in the strictest terms the terrorist attacks perpetrated at various locations in the Belgian Capital, Brussels this morning which killed at least 13 and injured many more innocent and peaceful people.

Mr. Madani conveyed his sincere condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the Government and people of Belgium and wished for speedy recovery of the wounded. He also reaffirmed the OIC’s unwavering solidarity and support to Belgium at these critical and painful circumstances.

The Secretary General expressed his firm rejection of these terrorist acts, which violate the sanctity of human life and reiterated OIC’s principled and consistent position in condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

The Secretary General also called upon all governments across the world, international organizations and civil society institutions to engage in a concerted joint firm action to combat the scourge of terrorism which represents a serious threat to international peace and security.

* * *

10:50 a.m. PST: Federal police in Belgium released a photo of a suspect in the bombing, along with a question: “Who recognizes this man?”
* * *

10:18 a.m. PST: Republican presidential front-runner Trump jumped on the news from Brussels, spotting an opening to once again call for aggressive—even unconstitutional—measures to target terrorism at home and abroad.

As The New York Times reported, Trump turned the focus back to domestic terrorism, stating, “This is going to happen in the United States.”

Politico made note of Trump’s comments on Tuesday morning’s news circuit:

Shortly after news broke of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Donald Trump was on television. He didn’t wait to consult with the foreign-policy advisors he announced a day earlier; instead he quickly condemned the attacks and argued that they serve as further rationale for some of his most controversial ideas, from closing America’s borders to allowing the greater use [of] torture in the war on terrorists.

Touring the morning talk-show circuit following multiple explosions throughout the Belgian capital on Tuesday, the Republican front-runner stressed that he is the strongest candidate on border control, an issue he said he has emphasized more than any other GOP contender.

Trump said immigrants aren’t assimilating to other countries’ cultures and that America has to be vigilant.

“We have no idea what’s happening. Our government has absolutely no idea what’s happening, but they’re coming into our country,” predicted Trump, offering no further evidence or specificity. “They’re coming in by the thousands and just watch what happens — I’m a pretty good prognosticator — just watch what happens over the years. It won’t be pretty.”

On the “Today” show, Trump repeated prior declarations he had made about changing laws and said that under his leadership, “the waterboarding” would be included in the U.S. repertoire of anti-terrorist tactics:

“The waterboarding would be fine. You could expand the laws more than waterboarding to get the information from these people,” Trump said on the TODAY Show.

“If it was up to me and if we changed the laws or have the laws, waterboarding would be fine and if they want to, as long as its, you know we work within the laws. They don’t work within the laws,” he added.

Trump’s GOP rival, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, took a different tack. His spokesman, Chris Schrimpf, told Politico: “Governor Kasich believes that leadership isn’t about playing on people’s fears and driving panic. … It is about responding calmly, bringing people together and talking about the way forward.”

Meanwhile, Cruz fell back on another GOP refrain: the trusty blame-Obama trope, calling for the president to cut short his historic Cuban visit (via ABC News):

–Posted by Kasia Anderson
* * *

9:15 a.m. PST: According to The Associated Press, Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks, “saying its extremists opened fire in the airport and ‘several of them’ detonated suicide belts.” The extremist group declared that the attacks were a coordinated response to the Belgian government’s “support of the international coalition arrayed against it.”
* * *

Explosions on Tuesday at the Zaventem airport and the Maelbeek metro station in Brussels—only four days after the only survivor involved in the Paris attacks was apprehended there—have raised suspicions that the attacks were a coordinated reprisal.

From The Guardian:

A series of explosions has ripped through the departure hall of a Brussels airport and a metro station in the Belgian capital, killing at least 34 people and leaving many more wounded.

Two blasts targeted the main hall of Zaventem airport at about 8am local time (7am GMT) with a third detonating in Maelbeek metro station, about 100 metres from the headquarters of the European commission, shortly afterwards, as commuters were making their way to work in the rush hour. … “This is a black day for Belgium,” said the Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, adding “what we feared has happened”.

Authorities are worried about the possibility of more attacks, he added, saying: “We realise we face a tragic moment. We have to be calm and show solidarity.”

Read more about the breaking story as it develops here.

— Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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