A student at Columbia University has authored an editorial saying Belgians deserve to be blamed for Tuesday’s Islamic terrorist attack in Brussels because their society is a front of “Islamophobia.”
“Columbia’s vigils and memorial services allow us to mourn victims and condemn terrorism,” writes student Brian Min in the Columbia Daily Spectator. “Moving forward, however, they should condemn not only terrorism, but also the specific Islamophobic attitudes and policies that facilitated the recent attacks.”
Min, a freshman planning to study French as well as women, gender, and sexuality studies, argues that the Brussels attack and other terrorist attacks, are “usually not arbitrary events without any justification—they often are responses to institutionalized hate and oppression.”
“Belgium remains the only other country in the world besides France to have a national ban of full-face veils,” Min says. “Employers too often get away with discriminating against Muslim employees. It comes as no surprise that the municipality Molenbeek—the site of one of the explosions—has an unemployment rate of more than 25 percent where the majority of Muslim youths are denied equal access to the labor and housing market.” (RELATED: Columbia Student Traumatized By Reading About White People)
Despite his remarks, Min claims he is not condoning terrorism, because “hate should never be used to fight against hate.”
Min then argues in favor of repurposing vigils and other mourning events for political purposes, saying they should be used to denounce specific policies he disagrees with.“[I]t is not enough for vigils and memorial services to broadly condemn Islamophobia and other forms of hatred that helped breed terrorist attacks,” he says. “They should also verbally denounce the specific forms of Islamophobia and hatred in relation to targeted nations and their policies of institutionalized discrimination, such as Belgium’s ban on full-face veils. In order to fight against Islamophobia and hate crimes that dramatically increase after major tragedies like the Brussels attacks, we must localize the specific Islamophobic policies and attitudes that helped to facilitate such attacks.”
Despite Min’s argument, there’s ample reason to believe Belgium is not a strong center of Islamophobia. For instance, in 2013 a Belgian man was sent to jail for hate speech for tearing up a Quran near some Muslims, and the country’s hate speech legislation has been interpreted as generally restricting any rhetoric that is overly hurtful towards Muslims.
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