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IU experts on Brussels attacks: Don't give in to fear

  • March 23, 2016

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By Michael Reschke

Given that immigrants are suspected to be involved in the terrorist attacks that killed more than 30 people Tuesday morning in Brussels, Belgium, an Indiana University security expert expects right wing politicians both in Europe and in the United States to call for tightened rules on immigration.

But Sumit Ganguly, director of IU’s Center on American and Global Security, doesn’t think that’s the right move.

“The most important thing is to not give in to hysteria, to not talk in nonsensical terms of stopping immigration,” he said. “Those steps are bound to feed into the world view of ISIS.”

The Islamic State group, commonly re-ferred to as ISIS, claimed responsibility for the bombs that went off at the Brussels airport and a subway train. Ganguly said the attacks are likely a continuation of the November terrorist attacks in Paris. Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in those attacks, was taken into custody Friday in Brussels. European security officials had been bracing for a major attack for weeks, and Abdeslam’s arrest heightened those fears.

While authorities expected an attack, knowing where or when it would happen is extremely difficult to predict, Ganguly said, especially in a small country like Belgium where security resources are limited. Efforts must be made to improve intelligence collection and the sharing of that information among law enforcement agencies on the local level, he said.

Lee Feinstein, dean of IU’s School of Global and International Studies, said that on a global level, the United States must work with countries in Europe and the Middle East to address the civil wars happening in places such as Syria. He said until there is a more dedicated effort to stopping those conflicts, the suffering they cause creates recruitment opportunities for terrorist groups.

“Stuff that happens far away can have consequences for us,” he said. “It’s important to think about what we can do as individuals and through our government to try and grapple with this problem that is very difficult and complicated but is not going to go away on its own.”

That’s why Ganguly said bringing up the drawbridge to keep out refugees from these conflicts is not the answer. He said many of these people are fleeing terrorist groups in their home countries.

“I do not suggest we completely lower our guard and be oblivious to danger,” he said. “But at the same time, if we panic and constantly look over our shoulder because someone belongs to or is associated with a different faith, ISIS has accomplished what it set out to do.”

Ganguly is taking a similar approach in his own life. He said he won’t alter his plans to travel to the United Kingdom, Ireland and other parts of Europe this summer. Ganguly said if he was planning to travel to Brussels, he would exercise suitable caution in public places, but he would still go.

“I don’t intend to let terrorists change my behavior,” he said. “If I do that, they’re winning.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.