And as in every tragedy, observers of all stripes were quick to respond to the bombings, which were claimed by the Islamic state yesterday.
Within hours of the bombings, Belgium was dominating Twitter’s top trends in multiple languages. Many users expressed solidarity and support with Brussels - as well as frustration and disbelief that continued bombings were taking place in major European cities:
The #JeSuis hashtag, which emerged after the Paris attacks last January, was especially appropriate in French-speaking Belgium and received a more cynical update for 2016.
Brussels, Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Ankara, Istanbul & many more. I think this sentiment speaks for many of us. pic.twitter.com/mTPapbEXcb— Joseph Willits (@josephwillits) 22 March 2016
Landmarks and celebrities demonstrated their support.
BRUSSELS ATTACKERS ARE— Cher (@cher) 23 March 2016
BARBARIANS, WHO KILLED
INNOCENT HUMAN BEINGS ,WHO WERE DOING NOTHING,BUT LIVING LIFE
NO REDEMPTION 4 THEM IN MY
But many commentators pointed out that the outpouring of grief for Belgium exposed the preferential treatment given to white and European victims of violence. In the last few weeks, nearly 40 people were killed in bombings in Turkey, and an attack on a marketplace in Yemen killed 136.
Some campaigners - particularly in the UK, which is considering leaving the EU - made early attempts to politicise the tragedy. But most were shut down.
Brussels, de facto capital of the EU, is also the jihadist capital of Europe. And the Remainers dare to say we're safer in the EU! #Brexit— Allison Pearson (@allisonpearson) 22 March 2016
In the whirlwind surrounding the American Presidential nominations race, however, strong opinions were mandatory. Donald Trump demonstrated his knowledge of Belgian cultural history.
Do you all remember how beautiful and safe a place Brussels was. Not anymore, it is from a different world! U.S. must be vigilant and smart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 22 March 2016
Ted Cruz committed to the not-at-all divisive approach of sending cops to patrol American Muslim neighborhoods
We Can No Longer Surrender to the Enemy Through Political Corr...
Today radical Islamic terrorists targeted the men and women of Brussels as they went to work on a spring morning. In a series of co-ordinated attacks they murdered and maimed dozens of innocent commuters at subway stations and travelers at the airport. For the terrorists, the identities of the victims were irrelevant. They –we—are all part of an intolerable culture that they have vowed to destroy. For years, the west has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear. We can no longer afford either. Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods. We will do what we can to help them fight this scourge, and redouble our efforts to make sure it does not happen here. We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized. We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration.And we need to execute a coherent campaign to utterly destroy ISIS. The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we can be are at an end. Our country is at stake.Posted by Ted Cruz on Tuesday, 22 March 2016
And the Democratic candidates reaffirmed their opposition to killing people.
These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our way of life. They will never succeed. -H— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) 22 March 2016
No one will be successful in dividing us. America becomes a greater nation, a stronger nation, when we stand together as one people.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) 22 March 2016
By the afternoon, the hashtag #StopIslam was trending worldwide. But the seemingly hateful trend was misleading: although some were advocating bigotry, the vast majority were using the trend to express their disgust at islamophobia.
And a Belgian landmark came into its own in demonstrating defiance.
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