It appears Belgium has found its very own Donald Trump in its Interior Minister Jan Jambon.
Just like the U.S. presidential Republican front-runner often claims “thousands and thousands” of Muslims celebrated 9/11 attacks, Jambon believes Muslims in Brussels celebrated the March 21 terrorist bombings.
The Belgian politician prompted global outrage after he first made the now-controversial comments in an interview with the Flemish-language De Standaard newspaper published on April 16.
“A significant section of the Muslim community danced when attacks took place,” he told the paper, referring to the airport and subway suicide attacks in which 32 people were killed.
Although Jambon failed to provide any kind of evidence, whatsoever, to support his outrageously incendiary claim — just like Trump, who also couldn’t prove his assertion — he vehemently defended his remarks this week, instead of apologizing.
“Everyone knows that these things happened. Do we have to wait for an official police report to confirm the existence of these facts,” Jambon stated during a parliamentary hearing.
“I don’t have the police report. There was [dancing], but not much ... several services have confirmed to me that these weren’t rumors and that they saw this on the ground,” he added. “What do you think, that I am going to stigmatize them by naming streets and districts?”
It’s not the first time Jambon has stirred such controversy without providing any kind of proof to support his statements. In January, he told a Dutch news channel that “terrorists enjoy support in the Muslim community in and around Brussels” in the wake of November’s Paris attacks.
At a time when anti-Islamic sentiment is on the rise in the West, baseless claims such as the ones made by both Jambon and Trump further marginalize a minority community already wildly misunderstood.
The situation is particularly volatile in Europe where Islamophobia has skyrocketed since 2015’s Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, subsequent suicide attacks in the city a year later, and, most recently, in Brussels. Meanwhile, the Middle East refugee influx and mass sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, made things all the worse.
And when politicians and prominent figures like Jambon and Trump spew hate against Muslims, it only adds fuel to the flames of anti-Muslim bigotry.