The Republican Party and war hawks on both sides of the spectrum consistently refuse to frame the issue of terrorism in any way that isn’t an ideological binary of black and white – that “Islamic” terrorists are mindlessly devoted to the destruction of Western civilization because of some sort of inherent authoritarianism hardwired into the Islamic religion and the only way to “defeat them” is to bomb them into oblivion. Such a primitive and unsophisticated approach might work well as a sound byte for FOX News to replay over and over, but it completely sidesteps the fundamental root causes of terrorism in the first place – and ultimately will only contribute to future terrorist attacks and make the world less safe.
Freelance journalist Joshua Hersh, the former Middle East correspondent for the Huffington Post, took to Twitter today to hammer home a few points about what everyone is getting wrong about the horrific bombings that took place in Brussels today.
The root causes of terrorism stem from socioeconomics. While the ideology of Salafist Wahhabism certainly does play a role, Hersh’s reporting highlights the failures of the Belgian government to properly assimilate their immigrant populations – immigrant populations that they earned with the brutality imposition of their colonial empire across the world. One young Muslim man from the hotbed neighborhood of Molennbeek told CNN that “the Belgian state rejects children and young people; they say, ‘They are all foreigners, why should we give them a job?’ They fill us with hate, and they say we aren’t of any use, so when young people see what’s going on over there [in Syria], they think ‘Well OK, let’s go there and be useful.'”
Migrant neighborhoods in Belgium have extremely high levels of poverty in proportion to non-migrant areas. The frustration felt by Muslim populations at the passage of discriminatory anti-veil legislation and the prominence of far-right political parties like Vlaams Belang that loudly trumpet anti-Muslim rhetoric don’t help to convince young Muslims that they are wanted or appreciated by the rest of the country. It is far too easy for predatory ideologues to target disenfranchised young folks in a nation where they do not feel welcome.
This should not be in any way interpreted as apologizing or otherwise trying to excuse the appalling violence we saw today in Brussels. It is only meant to be taken as a warning. As American society turns against its Muslim population thanks to the encouragement of racist rhetoric emanating from the Republican Party with the complicit encouragement of the mainstream media, we are in danger of creating a similar situation in our own nation. Demonizing Muslims only feeds into extremist propaganda and turns us into the racist monsters that they say we are. Education, social development, and equal opportunities are what will eventually solve terrorism – not bombs and slurs.
As a parting note to Mr. Trump, who openly advocated for torture today:
— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) March 23, 2016
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.