Two days after the bombings in Brussels — a time when Muslims in America are already dealing with increased Islamophobic attacks — Donald Trump accused Muslims of purposefully ignoring potential terrorists, which he says is a “big problem.”
In a radio interview with ITV’s “Good Morning Britain,” the Republican presidential frontrunner claimed that Muslims — including those in Brussels — hold responsibility for the attacks because they supposedly fail to report terrorists in their midst to authorities.
“They’re protecting each other, but they’re really doing very bad damage — they have to open up to society and report the bad ones,” Trump said, in the interview reported by the New York Times. “When they see trouble, they have to report it. They are absolutely not reporting it, and that’s a big problem.”
He then pointed to Salah Abdeslam, who was captured on Friday and was believed to be the last remaining participant in the Paris attacks. Abdeslam hid with a relative in Brussels during the time he was wanted by authorities, and that relative and another man, suspected of being an accomplice, have both appeared in court.
But Trump made the unsubstantiated claim that many members of the Muslim community in Brussels knew about Abdeslam’s whereabouts.
“He was there and everybody from that area knew he was there — nobody turned him in,” Trump said. “There’s something going on, and there’s something wrong.”
After calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States last year, Trump made a similar claim that “numerous people” knew what was going on prior to the deadly terror attack in San Bernardino, California by two self-identified Muslims. At the time, he called for Muslim-Americans to monitor each other.
“One thing, I think, that the Muslim population of this country has to do is they have to surveil their own people,” he said.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Affairs, told the New York Times on Wednesday that “it’s absolute and utter nonsense that American Muslims somehow know of potential terror threats and fail to report them.”
In fact, Muslims are already working with authorities to counter extremism. Information for over 40 percent of arrests of attempted terrorists involve tips from the Muslim-American community. In some of those cases, family members reported that suspects were missing overseas, members of the community reported suspicious activities, or friends would call the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) because they saw violent postings on the internet.
But Muslim American are nonetheless frequently expected to answer for the crimes that people commit in the name of their religion, a burden not placed on Christians.
Trump and Ted Cruz also both called for increased surveillance on Muslim neighborhoods in the wake of the Brussels attack, praising a mass surveillance program initiated in New York City after September 11. But the New York Police Department has said that in more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations, and cataloging mosques, it never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.
Not only was that surveillance and mapping program unsuccessful, but it damaged the relationship between Muslim communities and law enforcement authorities like the FBI, the agency charged with investigating potential terrorism plots.