Residents of Nice, France were left reeling after a truck drove high-speed into a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks on Thursday night, leaving at least 84 people dead and dozens more injured.
Local media identified the attacker as 31-year-old French-Tunisian dual national Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who lived in Nice. It is still not clear what motivated him, but even as details of the attack were just emerging, numerous politicians and commentators in the United States were quick to blame Muslims or even Islam as a whole.
On Thursday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) suggested the deportation of all Muslims in the United States who believe in “shariah,” a term that is often translated as “Islamic law” but which refers to any interpretation of moral principles on a wide range of issues, like prayer, marriage and divorce, inheritance, and criminal behavior.
“Western civilization is in a war,” he said during a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity. “We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in shariah, they should be deported. Shariah is incompatible with Western civilization.”
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said Thursday that U.S. intelligence agencies have to “surveil the Muslim communities, watch them more carefully” given what happened in Nice.
“We have to forget about hurting people’s feelings,” he told Megyn Kelly on Fox News. “The fact is there are people out there who want to kill us.”
“There are people in the Muslim community. It’s a small minority, but they are there.”
“If we hold back, it’s looked upon as a sign of weakness,” King said. “We have to have more surveillance.
Also on Fox News Thursday, Zuhdi Jasser, a commentator who has spread Islamophobia in the U.S. and is well-known for his conspiracy theories about Islam, said that defeating terrorism means defeating “political Islam” and the “sharia state.”
Jasser called for describing terrorism and violent extremism as “violent Islamism” instead and said Western governments need to look at the “pre-cursor ideologies.”
He also said no leaders of Arab countries will do more because “they’re drinking from the same drug, the intoxicant of theocratic Islam, the sharia state.”
Donald Trump military adviser and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn blamed all Muslim leaders on Fox News Thursday and called for leaders of Muslim countries to condemn “this radical form of this ideology in their bloodstream and declare that this thing cannot exist on this planet.”
In next 24 hours, I dare Arab & Persian world "leaders" to step up to the plate and declare their Islamic ideology sick and must B healed.
— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) July 15, 2016
“I want these leaders in this Muslim world that have this radical Islamic ideology festering, metastasizing, to stand up, and stand up tonight and be counted, and say something to condemn this attack that we have just seen,” he added before claiming that “this is a world war.”
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) called for halting Syrian refugee resettlement in the U.S. on Friday morning — though the attacker is French — and halting immigration from any countries “considered to be hotbeds of terrorism.”
I call on @POTUS to 1) halt the Syrian refugee resettlement program 2) immediately deport any non-citizens listed on a terror-watch list
— Rep. Jeff Duncan (@RepJeffDuncan) July 15, 2016