Los Angeles, CA (TFC) – On 22 March 2016, the people of Brussels were victimized by a series of terrorist attacks across the city. Gunfire and two explosions were reported at Zaventem Airport and an attack was reported at Maalbeek Metro Station. These attacks were devastating and left 30 dead and 230 wounded, at the time of publication. In addition, these attacks have caused symbolic damage as Brussels is the seat of power of the European Union and the Maalbeek Metro Station serves the offices of the European Commission. This attack, which is occurred in the wake of the Paris and San Bernadino attacks, will evoke a strong emotional response from the public. However, a hysterical response to these terrorist attacks will ultimately be unproductive.
In the immediate aftermath of the Brussels terrorist attacks, ISIS claimed responsibility. This has since prompted a backlash against Muslims. Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has reiterated his support for banning Muslims from entering the US and hinted at closing the border entirely. Ted Cruz stated that the US should stop refugees who come from countries with a significant al-Qaeda or ISIS presence. He then went even further by stating that the US should “…empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
These proposals are alarming. The Muslim community in the US has already been the victim of indiscriminate surveillance programs by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Now, these proposals are calling for law enforcement to be used to crackdown even further on Muslim communities. However, there are numerous problems with these proposals. First, since Muslims are integrated into American society and do not live in isolated enclaves, it would take an inordinate amount of law enforcement resources to “secure” all of the Muslims in the US. In addition, even if it was feasible to do so, these proposals are discriminatory as they would allow the government to single out a particular group of people for unequal treatment and collective punishment. As a result, these proposals are certainly unconstitutional.
People might counter my argument by claiming that these measures are justified to promote public safety. While the notion of trading the civil liberties of others for your own security is, in itself, morally deplorable, it is also factually incorrect to think that cracking down on Muslims would make you any safer. United States intelligence services rely on the cooperation of Muslim communities to obtain information about and stop Islamic terrorist plots. In fact, the Muslim community has blown the whistle on more jihadist terror plots than have been discovered by the US government. As a result, it should be apparent that the trust and cooperation of Muslim communities are vital to combatting Islamic terrorism in the US. Thus, it would be imprudent to do anything that unnecessarily destroys this trust and cooperation. Doing so would hinder the counter-terrorism efforts of the intelligence services, which would threaten public safety.
Cracking down on Muslims will also encourage more terrorism. ISIS has staked its reputation on its claims that the West hates Muslims and will mistreat them at every opportunity. So far, this message has largely failed to resonate with the Muslim community. It is because of this that ISIS has launched terror attacks, with the objective of provoking a crackdown against Muslims. If the US were to crackdown on Muslims (or do a number of other things like barring refugees from the country), it would confirm ISIS’s narrative, which they could use as propaganda. This would provide them with political legitimacy, which would only serve to strengthen their organization and help their recruiting efforts. As a result, these proposals to crackdown on Muslim communities play directly into the hands of ISIS, making them a greater threat over the long-term. For a more detailed explanation of this dynamic, I would highly recommend reading this article about the purpose of terrorism.
It should be apparent that clamping down on Muslims is unproductive. Instead of promoting safety, these proposals will only hinder counterterrorism efforts and provide a boast to ISIS. These proposals are also blatantly unconstitutional and run contrary to American values. As a result, the fact that these proposals have originated from presidential candidates, who will be called upon to defend the Constitution should they win the election, is extremely disturbing. This is especially true in light of the blatantly xenophobic and nationalist backdrop in which this election is taking place. As a result, these proposals should not be viewed as words of wisdom, but rather as an attempt to pander to the far-right for political gain. Even if these proposals are never implemented, I fear that they will have real consequences as they fuel hatred against Muslims and those who are perceived to be Muslim. Thus, it is vital that the American public reject these proposals and condemn them to the highest degree.