By Joel Mathis
and Ben Boychuk
Tribune News Service
The terrorist bombings in Belgium on Tuesday that left at least 30 people dead and more than 200 injured have U.S. officials and presidential hopefuls once again arguing over how to avert similar attacks here.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump predicted similar attacks would occur in the United States and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called on law enforcement agencies “to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
Meantime, Democrat Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter: “We can be strong and smart without advocating torture or bigotry.”
Should the United States revamp its immigration programs in light of the attacks in Europe? Or are there better ways to counter terrorism without restricting travel and civil liberties? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, weigh in.
Well, it finally happened. A catastrophe has made Donald Trump sound reasonable.
Trump is not an especially coherent candidate. He often contradicts himself. He exaggerates and lies. But on immigration and the threat from foreign terrorists, he has been remarkably consistent.
And after Tuesday’s deadly attacks in Brussels, he looks prescient.
“Go to Brussels. Go to Paris. Go to different places,” Trump told Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo in January. “There is something going on and it’s not good, where they want Shariah law, where they want this, where they want things that – you know, there has to be some assimilation. There is no assimilation. There is something bad going on.”
Trump went on to describe Brussels as a “hellhole,” which, as one would imagine, caused the Belgians much distress.
But he wasn’t wrong.
Multicultural Europe has given rise to no-go zones like Brussels’ Molenbeek district, where one of Tuesday’s bombings occurred. Molenbeek is home to a large number of unassimilated immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East. The Islamic State cell that plotted the attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris in November was based in Molenbeek.
Police stay clear of neighborhoods like Molenbeek because they’re often outnumbered and outgunned. There is “something bad going on” in Molenbeek and plenty of other neighborhoods just like it in Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Whatever else may be said about Trump, he isn’t wrong to be concerned about foreigners traveling from places like Brussels or Paris to do Americans harm. And he isn’t wrong to worry about unassimilated immigrants carving out their own Molenbeeks here. The same multicultural ethos that is killing Europe is alive and well here.
We don’t need to “ban all Muslims,” as Trump suggested a few months ago before backpedaling and then denying he said any such thing. But Congress can toughen up the rules of entry, starting with a visa waiver program that lets potential security risks enter the country with a minimum of scrutiny because they happen to come from a friendly partner nation.
Under the circumstances, maintaining such a policy isn’t just misguided. It’s insane.
It isn’t bigotry for a nation to put the security of its citizens first and foremost. Trump is wrong about plenty – but not about that.
There is no perfect way to combat terrorism. Like war, crime and disease, it will always be part of the human landscape – something that can sometimes be managed effectively, perhaps, but never ended.
Luckily we already know the secret to combating radicalization.
The secret? America can keep on being America.
Among the widely reported differences between Muslims in America and Muslims in Europe: Muslims here are more diverse – they come from as many as 77 countries, with the result that co-religionists of many nationalities end up intermingling with each other. European Muslims come from fewer, more homogeneous ethnic groups, and have tended as a result not to integrate with each other, much less with the broader society.
American Muslims tend to be more prosperous – about as likely as the general population to report incomes of $100,000 or more. They’re relatively likely to intermarry with other religious groups. They’re about as likely as the general public to have graduated college.
“Our data found that Muslims in the U.S. are employed and educated at very similar levels to the general population,” Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at Pew Research Center, told International Business Times in November. “In Western Europe, Muslims tend to lag the overall population in socioeconomic status.”
That’s not to say radicalization is impossible in America. We’ve had enough incidents in recent years to know differently. But that doesn’t change the fact that America seems to be less susceptible to that radicalization.
Why? Because we’ve opened our doors – welcoming folks into our country and granting them opportunities. America’s openness is not a weakness: It’s a strength that has protected us against a worse problem.
That’s why the Donald Trumps and Ted Cruzes of the world are so frightening. It’s not just that they’d stomp on American values of openness and toleration to try to make us safer; it’s because that stomping would actually, perversely, probably make us less safe.
We should take reasonable security precautions, of course. But the best one? Keep being a beacon for freedom and prosperity. America’s best defense is America’s ideals.
Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.