Belgian Minister: Do I Really Need Proof to Say Muslims Danced After Brussels Attacks?
Belgium's interior minister is being asked to explain his claims that Muslims danced in celebration after last month's terrorist attacks.
Two days after last month’s deadly terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon offered to resign over preventable security lapses he believed could have stopped Ibrahim el-Bakraoui from blowing himself up in the capital’s airport.
Prime Minister Charles Michel turned down his offer. But now Jambon is under scrutiny again — this time for claiming in an interview with Flemish-language newspaper De Standaard that “a significant section of the [Belgian] Muslim community danced” in celebration after the March 22 attacks killed 32 at the airport and a subway station.
On Wednesday, lawmakers in Belgium’s parliament grilled him over the remarks, demanding to know what proof he had that Muslims had taken to the streets in celebration. Apparently he doesn’t think he needs any.
“For days now, people are focusing on the word ‘significant’ and talking about how many instances, how many police reports,” Jambon said. “I’ll tell you straight: I don’t have police reports. There are some, but not many. Everyone knows that these things happened. Do we have to wait for an official police report to confirm the existence of these facts?”
Jambon belongs to Belgium’s center-right party and has openly accused earlier governments in his country of not doing enough to crack down on radicalization. But opposition lawmakers in Parliament, including liberal MP Katja Gabriels, warned that making such comments without backing them up could threaten relations with the Muslim community.
“You should call a cat a cat, but you shouldn’t try to make a mosquito into an elephant,” she said Wednesday. “A member of the government cannot generalize…an entire part of the population.”
Jambon’s remarks have drawn comparisons to U.S. presidential Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who has claimed repeatedly that American Muslims danced in celebration after planes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
Trump has also called for an indefinite ban on Muslims entering the United States, but Jambon hasn’t gone to such extremes.
“We cannot stigmatize a whole community,” he told De Standaard. “I have said hundreds of times that we have to work with the Muslim community to win back their hearts, some of which are turning against our society, even if it is just three people.”
From what he claims about celebrations in the streets, however, it sounds as if he thinks it’s a lot more than just three.
Photo credit: THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images