Donald Trump showed remarkable, if momentary, insight regarding the root causes of the recent terrorist attack in Belgium.
While this isn’t the only reason that ISIS targeted Belgium. It is the primary reason why Belgian residents have been involved in the last two major ISIS attacks in Europe.
The unemployment rate for Belgians of North and sub-Saharan African descent is between 40 and 50 percent. Last year, the BBC reported that of Antwerp’s 2,600 police officers, only 22 are non-white. In 2011, Belgium became the first country in Europe to ban the veil nationwide.
Like most of Europe, Belgium does not provide a path to citizenship for their immigrant population. Instead many Belgian born Muslim languish in a guest worker status with few jobs and few alternatives. It should not be surprising that Belgium has supplied between 400-500 fighters in the Syrian war.
Belgium is also a mess politically. They don’t have the public safety infrastructure to track the activities of these fighters when they come back home. By comparison, the US has maybe a dozen residents who have left the US to fight in the Middle East and have returned. The FBI has all of them under close surveillance.
In this country, however, assimilation does not face the same barriers, even for those who are here illegally. The result is a US Muslim population that is generally well integrated into their communities and happy with their circumstances.
According to a 2011 Pew Research poll, only 20 percent of American Muslims surveyed would prefer to “be distinct” than to “adopt American customs.” Half say that many of their friends are non-Muslim. Almost 80 percent rate their community an “excellent” or “good” place to live. Crime rates in Muslim communities are generally low and the children of Muslims, like most US immigrants, marry outside their community and are indistinguishable from any other US citizen.
Yet politicians like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump call for bans on all Muslim immigration and increased internal surveillance of all Muslims already here include those that are US citizens.
A 2014 study found that Muslim immigrants in states that experienced more anti-Muslim hate crimes were less likely to intermarry with non-Muslims and learn English.
Our ability to peacefully assimilate Muslims along with every other immigrant demographic IS one of the major factors in insulating America from the domestic terrorism we see in Europe.
The net result of raising the level of Islamaphobia in this country is that our country becomes less safe.
Ted Cruz’s proposed response to Brussels would have a similar effect. The day of the attacks, he called for police to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” Asked what that meant, Cruz cited a program in New York that, according to The New York Times, allowed to the NYPD to designate “entire mosques as suspected ‘terrorism enterprises,’” and thus “collect the license plate numbers of every car in mosque parking lots, videotape worshipers coming and going, and record sermons using informants wearing hidden microphones.” What Cruz didn’t mention is that an NYPD official himself admitted the program didn’t yield a single terrorism investigation. What it did was alienate law-abiding Muslims. As a Newark-based FBI special agent noted, the program led “people [to] pull back cooperation” and thus impaired “our ability to have our finger on the pulse of what’s going on around the state.”
The New York police chief said that he had hundreds of Muslim officers on the staff and if Ted Cruz has a campaign stop in New York, part of the squad assigned to protect him will likely be Muslim.
Embracing peaceful Muslims in the same way we embrace any other peaceful immigrant population, is our strongest weapon against ISIS ideology.
Persecuting Muslims, treating every Muslim as if they were a terrorist and subjecting individuals to a higher level of scrutiny and regulation just because of their religion will re-enforce the ISIS message that the West really does want to destroy Islam.