Obama rejects ‘attempt to stigmatize Muslims’ in US after Brussels attacks
Barack Obama on Saturday rejected “any attempt to stigmatize Muslim Americans” in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Brussels, calling such views as espoused by some Republican presidential candidates “contrary to our character, to our values, and to our history as a nation built around the idea of religious freedom”.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the explosions at Brussels’ Zaventem airport and the Maelbeek metro station on Tuesday, in which 31 people were killed and hundreds injured. At least two Americans were among the dead and at least 14 among the injured.
In the aftermath of the attacks, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump caused controversy with a promised clampdown on immigration and repeated advocacy of the use of torture against terrorist suspects.
Texas senator Ted Cruz called for law enforcement to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized”, adding: “The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we can be are at an end.”
On Saturday, Obama offered a stern response. Detailing in his weekly address what he called an ongoing international military effort “to root out and defeat [Isis]”, the president referred to Friday’s announcement of the death in an airstrike of Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, reportedly Isis’s second-in-command.
Then he said: “As we move forward in this fight, we have to wield another weapon alongside our airstrikes, our military, our counterterrorism work, and our diplomacy. And that’s the power of our example.
“Our openness to refugees fleeing [Isis] violence. Our determination to win the battle against [Isis’s] hateful and violent propaganda – a distorted view of Islam that aims to radicalize young Muslims to their cause.
“In that effort, our most important partners are American Muslims. That’s why we have to reject any attempt to stigmatize Muslim Americans, and their enormous contributions to our country and our way of life.
“Such attempts are contrary to our character, to our values, and to our history as a nation built around the idea of religious freedom. It’s also counterproductive. It plays right into the hands of terrorists who want to turn us against one another; who need a reason to recruit more people to their hateful cause.”
Saying he had also offered the prime minister of Belgium “the full array of our support”, Obama also said: “Belgium is a close friend and ally of the United States. And when it comes to our friends, America has their back. Especially as we fight the scourge of terrorism.”
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