Belgium was left reeling Tuesday morning after a series of explosions at the airport and metro in Brussels left at least 34 dead and hundreds more wounded. Many have been quick to blame Muslims, and even Islam as a whole, for the violence.
Early Tuesday morning, #StopIslam was trending on Twitter around the world, before those responsible for the attacks or their motivations were even clear.
Many politicians and commentators in the United States echoed those sentiments, also before ISIS took credit for the attacks. During his press conference on Tuesday morning, presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) responded to the attacks by chastising President Barack Obama for cautioning against Islamophobia and taking in Syrian refugees.
“We need a president who sets aside political correctness. In the wake of Brussels, we don’t need another lecture from Obama on Islamophobia,” Cruz said. “We need a commander-in-chief who does everything necessary to defeat the enemy, and we need to immediately halt the president’s ill-advised plan to bring in tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees.”
In a Facebook post, Cruz also blamed Obama and wrote that “an extreme strain of Islam” was to blame for the attacks. “Radical Islam is at war with us,” he said. “For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality.”
He also suggested that police should be “empowered” to “patrol” Muslim neighborhoods.
— Jordan Denari (@jordandenari) March 22, 2016
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump similarly blamed Muslims for the attacks and once again called for closing the country’s borders.
“We’re taking in people without real documentation. We don’t know where they are coming from, we don’t know where they’re from, who they are,” Trump said on Fox & Friends. “They could be ISIS, they could be ISIS-related.”
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton mentioned “radical jihadists” in her statement and emphasized the need to “tighten security” before it was clear who was responsible for the attacks.
— Emily Atkin (@emorwee) March 22, 2016
This makes John Kasich the only presidential candidate to have issued a statement thus far that does not mention religion, before the identity of the motivators were even clear. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) issued a statement calling to “destroy ISIS” only after the militant group took credit for the attacks, but he did not mention religion.
On Fox & Friends Tuesday morning, guest host Laura Ingraham also blamed political correctness for the attacks.
— FOX & Friends (@foxandfriends) March 22, 2016
Holding Muslims as a whole responsible for attacks is nothing new, and such attacks have lead to backlash against Muslims in other parts of the world. Since the terror attacks in Paris last November, ThinkProgress has found at least 69 incidents in which Muslims and non-Muslims were victims of shootings, threats, personal assaults, and vandalism of their places of worship.
The hunt for those responsible for the attacks in Brussels is still underway. One Belgian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told BuzzFeed News that authorities are overwhelmed due to the small size of the government in comparison to the number of open investigations on people linked to threats both within the country and abroad.
“We just don’t have the people to watch anything else and, frankly, we don’t have the infrastructure to properly investigate or monitor hundreds of individuals suspected of terror links, as well as pursue the hundreds of open files and investigations we have,” the official told BuzzFeed News.
“It’s literally an impossible situation and, honestly, it’s very grave.”
This is a breaking news post and will be updated.