Back in January, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called out the city of Brussels for its “assimilation” of Muslims, claiming the Belgian capital is “like living in a hellhole right now.”
Trump told Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo at the time:
"There is something going on, Maria. Go to Brussels. Go to Paris. Go to different places. There is something going on and it's not good, where they want Sharia law, where they want this, where they want things that — you know there has to be some assimilation. There is no assimilation. There is something bad going on."
"You go to Brussels — I was in Brussels a long time ago, 20 years ago, so beautiful, everything is so beautiful — it's like living in a hellhole right now," he continued. "You go to these different places. There is something going on."
Trump caught a good amount of flak for the comments, igniting a firestorm of backlash on Twitter and spawning the hashtag “#hellhole.”
In an article titled “Donald Trump Finds New City to Insult: Brussels,” The New York Times reported:
Before long, the hashtag #hellhole was gaining traction on Twitter as Belgians lashed out at Mr. Trump, deploying an arsenal of insults, irony and humor, including images of Belgium’s beloved beer and chocolate.
One Twitter user posted a picture of Mr. Trump with what appeared to be a Belgian waffle stuffed in his mouth.
“This is my hellhole,” Joseph Lemaire, a Brussels-based public relations consultant, posted on Twitter, along with several photos, including one showing the capital’s central square, the Grand Place or Grote Markt, which is flanked by stately 17th-century buildings from the city’s prosperous mercantile days.
Two months after Trump's controversial comments, Brussels was the scene of a deadly terror attack by Islamic extremists Tuesday morning when explosions went off at both the Zaventem Airport and a city metro station, killing at least 26 and injuring more than 100 others. Reports from the scene stated there were shouts in Arabic and gunfire along with the explosions, and a suicide belt was found at the scene.
The attacks were quickly confirmed as terrorism.
Brussel’s Muslim population has grown rapidly in recent years, and now amounts to about 25 percent of the city’s 1 million-plus residents.
Salah Abdeslam, the mastermind of the attacks in Paris last year that killed 130 people, had planned the attacks while living in Brussels. Abdeslam was captured last week.