Around 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. Eastern time), an unidentified man charged at French soldiers with a machete while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” He was shot immediately. This rather cut-and-dried (and thankfully foiled) terror attack provided President Donald Trump with a talking point, and rightly so.
“A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris,” Trump tweeted Friday morning. “Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.”
A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
Trump’s tweet followed the BBC report on the attack fairly closely. The British paper reported the attacker’s shout of “Allahu Akbar” — known as the Takbīr in Arabic, it is a common Islamic phrase meaning “God is the greatest.” While it is used in many settings, this phrase is common among jihadis when attacking.
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the attack was “terrorist in nature.”One soldier sustained a head injury in the attack. Two rucksacks belonging to the suspect were searched, but no explosives were found. The suspect is reportedly in his 30s and without identity papers.
During the attack, hundreds of visitors were in the Louvre and were held in secure areas of the museum, before they were evacuated gradually. These visitors were told by security staff to crouch on the floor.
“We saw death coming for us, with everything that’s happening at the moment. We were very, very scared,” one woman, who works at a restaurant in the museum, told the AFP news agency.
Trump’s tweet legitimized that fear and brought news of the attack to the American consciousness. The attack came shortly after the president’s executive order to suspend immigration from countries of terror concern. Some dismissed this move as Islamophobic, calling it a “Muslim ban,” although most majority-Muslim countries were not involved. The order did receive legitimate criticism for its application to green-card holders, however.
Very few details about the assailant in the Louvre terror attack are known. The Louvre is one of the world’s foremost art museums, featuring the Mona Lisa among thousands of other historic artworks. This attack thus hits at the center of the French consciousness, and sends a message to the West that this terrorist — whether or not he was supported or trained by an organization such as the Islamic State (ISIS) — meant to strike at the heart of Western culture and heritage.
While Trump can point to this terror attack as a reason for America to take defensive action, he cannot explicitly say that this proves the need for his immigration order. Very few details about the assailant are known, and it has been reported that he does not have identity papers. He may or may not hail from a country of terror concern, and he may or may not have been prevented from entering France if the country had instituted an order like Trump’s.
Nevertheless, Trump is right to highlight the attack, and all signs point to a “radical Islamic terrorist,” as he claimed.
Naturally, the media seemed more focused on Kellyanne Conway’s slip up in referring to terrorists arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky, as “The Bowling Green Massacre.”
Terror attacks like the one at the Louvre this morning should be taken seriously, whether or not they back up Trump’s claims and policies.