Donald Trump condemned Muslims today for failing to report suspicious activity within their own communities – insisting they must do more to help prevent attacks such as those in Belgium.
The US Republican presidential candidate said it was ‘a disgrace’ that a suspect behind last year’s Paris attacks had been found after a long manhunt by police in an area of Brussels where he lived.
Mr Trump, who wants a ban on Muslims entering the US, condemned the ‘outrageous’ attacks on the Brussels airport and metro yesterday and said he would ‘hit ISIS so hard you wouldn’t believe it’.
But Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May hit back this afternoon, declaring that Mr Trump was ‘absolutely plain wrong’ to blame Muslims for failing to report extremists.
Ms May said police must work with Muslim communities – as they do in Britain – to ‘ensure that everything we do is about uniting our communities and not about dividing them’.
When he made his controversial pledge to ban Muslims from the US in December Mr Trump caused uproar in Britain by claiming that parts of London were so radicalised that they were ‘no-go areas’ for police because they were ‘scared for their lives’.
Speaking to DailyMail.com U.S. Editor-at-Large Piers Morgan onITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Trump said: ‘When they see trouble they have to report it, they are not reporting it, they are absolutely not reporting it and that’s a big problem.’
Mr Trump told of his fury that Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam had been living in his local area of Brussels for four months.
‘He was in his neighbourhood where he grew up and nobody even turned him in and supposedly this is retribution for that. It’s a disgrace,’ he said.
But Ms May rejected Mr Trump’s criticism, telling MPs in the House of Commons today: ‘I understand he has said that Muslims were not coming forward in the United Kingdom to report matters of concern. This is absolutely not the case.
‘He is just plain wrong and that has – as I understand it – been confirmed by Neil Basu from the Metropolitan Police this morning.
‘We do see people in Muslim communities around the United Kingdom who are as concerned as everybody else is in the UK – both about the attacks that have taken place but also about the perversion of Islam that has underlined the ideology that has led to violence and we work with them and will continue to work with them to ensure that everything we do is about uniting our communities and not about dividing them.’
Mr Trump is the front-runner in the race to be the Republican candidate in November’s presidential election despite making a series of hugely controversial statements during his campaign.
These have boosted his popularity with supporters who see him as someone who speaks uncomfortable truths, but have outraged millions both in the US and around the world.
Mr Trump said there were signs that an attack by suspected Muslim extremists in California in December, which killed 14 people, could have been stopped.
‘A lot of people in the community knew they were going to do it because in their apartment they had bombs all over the floor… and they didn’t report them,’ he said.
‘I don’t know what it is. It’s like they’re protecting each other but they’re really doing very bad damage. They have to open up to society, they have to report the bad ones.’
When asked what he would do to stop such attacks in the future, Mr Trump told the programme: ‘I would hit ISIS so hard you wouldn’t believe it, and I’d get the people over there to put up their soldiers because it’s about time somebody did it.
‘But I’d have such backup like you’ve never seen before in terms of air power, airstrikes etc, and you’ve got to take them out – and you’ve got to take them out harshly, and you’ve got to take them out fast.
‘You have no choice. These people, you know, we’re now in the age of chopping off heads, nobody would have believed this was possible. I would hit them very hard, very fast.’
He said Abdeslam was ‘really coddled and taken care of by people that like in the neighbourhood, and many people knew he was there, and yet he was the number one wanted fugitive in the world’.
Mr Trump added: ‘Everybody from that area knew he was there and nobody turned him in. There’s something going on, and there’s something wrong – you know it Piers, and so do I.’
Mr Trump’s promise to ban Muslims from entering the US triggered a campaign to block him from coming to the UK.
The petition was signed by more than half a million people in Britain and led to a three-hour debate by MPs in the House of Commons.
Responding to his comments this morning, Neil Basu, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, told the BBC: ‘Trump is wrong. There is a generational problem here.
‘We need more reporting from the Muslim community and all communities. If we demonise one section of society that’s the worst thing we can do.
‘We do see a spike in hate crimes [after attacks] but we do deal with it very forcibly and we work closely with communities to try and prevent it.’
Mr Trump told Mr Morgan – who said he considered the billionaire ‘a good friend’ he had known for a decade – that he did not believe many Britons were scared of the idea of him in the White House.
He said: ‘I don’t think too many are. Honestly, I’m a very normal person. I happen to be intelligent, very intelligent, I guess, based on certain results that I get in doing things.’
Mr Trump’s statements are ‘just not true’, said Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain.
He told Good Morning Britain: ‘What we have to recognise is when some of these statements are made that fuel this idea of bigotry and really fuel the thing that terrorists themselves want – that Muslims are apart from the West and cannot be seen as equal citizens – these things are not good for our society.’