Islamic State owes Donald Trump a debt of gratitude

December 10, 2015
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to a supporter at a Pearl Harbor Day rally aboard the USS Yorktown Memorial in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, December 7, 2015. Trump on Monday called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States in the most dramatic response by a candidate yet to last week's shooting spree by two Muslims who the FBI said had been radicalized. "We have no choice," Trump said at a rally in South Carolina, warning of more Sept. 11-style attacks if stern measures are not taken. REUTERS/Randall Hill    TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1XNF3

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to a supporter at a Pearl Harbor Day rally aboard the USS Yorktown Memorial in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Donald Trump likes to instigate controversy and keep media attention focused on his campaign for president. In a speech on Dec. 7, Trump, who is leading national polls for the Republican nomination, shocked the world when he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” — until American leaders “can figure out what the hell is going on.”

Despite widespread condemnation, Trump is standing by his proposal, saying it would not apply to Muslim American citizens and would be a “temporary measure” in response to the threat of attacks from jihadist groups. He invoked one of America’s darkest periods: President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision during World War Two to classify more than 100,000 Japanese, German and Italian immigrants as “enemy aliens.” That decision paved the way for the internment of tens of thousands of noncitizens and American citizens of Japanese descent.

Trump’s proposal is reprehensible, and it is part of a growing undercurrent of Islamophobia that is making life difficult for the approximately three million Muslims in the United States. Hate crimes against Muslim Americans have increased since the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and the Dec. 2 massacre in San Bernardino, California — with the Anti-Defamation League logging at least two dozen anti-Muslim attacks over a three-week period.

And Trump is not the only presidential candidate who has fanned the flames of anti-Muslim hysteria. After the Paris attacks, Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who is also a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, described Syrian refugees as “rabid dogs.” He has also falsely claimed that Islamic law, sharia, requires that “people following other religions must be killed.”

The stereotypes and xenophobia perpetuated by Trump and other demagogues have more subtle effects than outright violence. They shape a social climate in which most Muslims and Arabs are treated as potential terrorists. On Nov. 17, four days after the Paris attacks, a community meeting over plans for a new mosque in Virginia turned into a frightening example of the anti-Muslim sentiment sweeping parts of the United States. Samer Shalaby, an engineer and mosque trustee who was trying to explain the building plans, was heckled and shouted down by audience members.

“Nobody, nobody, nobody wants your evil cult in this county,” one man shouted while pointing his finger at Shalaby, as others in the audience clapped and cheered. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that this does not happen,” the heckler, who identified himself as a former Marine, continued. “Because you are terrorists. Every one of you are terrorists. I don’t care what you say. I don’t care what you think.” Later, the man added, to cheers from the crowd, “Every Muslim is a terrorist, period. Shut your mouth.”

One national poll released in September found that more than half of Americans — and 83 percent of Republicans — believe that Muslims should be barred from seeking the presidency. Another poll last month found that 56 percent of Americans view Islam as at “odds with American values and way of life.” (The poll found that U.S. public perceptions of Islam have turned more negative in recent years; in 2011, those interviewed were more evenly divided.)

Of course, it is Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration that is at odds with the historic American ideals of religious freedom and tolerance. Beyond the damage he is causing to America’s image and values, Trump is also handing a propaganda victory to the militant forces that he supposedly wants to defeat, especially Islamic State.

Trump’s latest antics play perfectly into Islamic State’s hands, confirming its message that the West is an evil, hostile land where Muslims are unsafe and where they will be persecuted simply for being Muslim. One of the pillars of Islamic State’s ideology is that it is the true — and only — defender of Sunni Muslims, who are being persecuted in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and everywhere else where the group has carried out attacks, either directly or through its affiliates.

In its slick propaganda, Islamic State emphasizes two major themes: a righteous and idyllic life for “true” Muslims in its self-declared state in parts of Syria and Iraq, and an ideology that sanctifies violence as the only means for Sunnis to achieve political power. The group is highly sophisticated in its use of social media to sow fear among its enemies, and to entice alienated Muslims living in the West to “emigrate” to Islamic State-controlled territory.

Never mind that, like other militant Islamic movements, especially al Qaeda, Islamic State selectively uses the teachings of a group of clerics and scholars from across Islam’s history. These clerics advocated declaring fellow Muslims as infidels or apostates, and justified their killing. The majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims reject this notion of takfir. But it is central to the ideology of most of today’s militant groups, who have killed far more Muslims than non-Muslims. That fact becomes obscured as long as Islamic State has new opportunities to portray itself as the defender of Muslims.

One reason why Islamic State and other jihadist groups have had greater success in recruiting Muslims living in Europe, as opposed to the United States, is that Muslim communities are more alienated in Europe. In America, Muslims immigrants tend to be more educated, diverse and affluent than their counterparts in Europe.

In a report released on Dec. 7, the Soufan Group, a New York-based security consultancy, estimated that between 27,000 and 31,000 foreign fighters have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State and other extremist groups. About 5,000 of those fighters came from Western Europe, mainly from Britain, France, Germany and Belgium. By contrast, according to a study by terrorism researchers at George Washington University, only about 250 Americans have tried to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.

But thanks to Trump and other demagogues who are using the San Bernardino attack to whip up anti-Muslim fervor, a new backlash against Muslims in America will breed a greater sense of resentment. And Islamic State knows well how to exploit the resulting fear and alienation.

19 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Trump has Saudi Business partners. Many of Trump’s own dollars have likely gone to fund ISIS and other Sunni radical operations.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/20 15/12/07/donald-trump-loves-muslims-if-t hey-re-rich.html

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

It is amazing how little the west knows about ISIS but this article tells how much ISIS benefits from Donald Trump. I believe this article sheds less light on what Donald Trump is contributing toward the furtherance of ISIS and more on the ignorance of the author.

Posted by Imperfict | Report as abusive

This Muslim cause he picked (happens to be a timely fold mine discovery) is just a part of a bigger problem of White Christian supremacist mentality not unlike that of Nazis, that started with Latino/Mexican immigrants, blacks, Asians, later to come are Jews (Indians-native Americans immaterial at this stage). Make no mistake this how empires are built and destroyed too.
When he says Make America great America again he is making a rallying call for ‘pre- civil war’ and ‘pre-civil rights’ eras with slavery and unfettered white supremacy and entitlements.

Posted by moriganti | Report as abusive

Towel heads on both sides are scared shiteless of Trump. He’s the new Reaghan- he won’t back down, he knows what our subs are for.

Posted by UgoneHearMe | Report as abusive

Agitprop, the media campaign tool for use in supporting their favs and discrediting the front-runner who seems to be escaping their gravity. Trump emerges victorious because he really doesn’t follow polls and wonks and self-serving pundits. Terror by American policy and orchestration, knows no bounds…like deficit spending…the sky’s the limit. Trump or no Trump.

Posted by jmon2012 | Report as abusive

The old old misguided Leftwing argument that
Fighting Terrorism Causes terrorism!

TRUMP will always stand with Americans
and Never with the PC-suicidal Crowd!

TRUMP 2016! He will Always put Americans first!

Posted by LegalAmerica | Report as abusive

“Towelheads” aren’t scared of anything, especially toupeehead Trump. They want to die, haven’t you noticed? It’s called martyrdom.

Posted by Calvin2k | Report as abusive

It would be expected for the people to become fearful after such attacks, and natural for them to find a scapegoat to fear and avenge. But a national leader’s job is to restrain such feelings and efforts to avoid an out of control society becoming anarchical. But trump is the exact opposite. He uses his national position to further stir up such sentiments to advance his personal quest for power.

Posted by dickgroff | Report as abusive

Reagan caved to every Muslim he ever met. Gave long range missiles to Iran, in exchange for hostages. Oops. Helped to form the Taliban, by sending them cash and anti-aircraft weapons. Oops. Empowered Saddam Hussein by sending him chemical weapons and air support. Oops.

Reagan was an ignorant loser, and so is trump.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

> Islamic State owes Donald Trump a debt of gratitude
In a war I don’t see the relevance of political statements such as “handing them a verbal victory”. In a war when the enemy is dedicated to your destruction, tactics and strategy are summed to only one goal – victory over your enemy. The rest is noise.

Posted by tribeUS | Report as abusive

Why do you blame Trump? Trump used words only. Words do no kill! The blame goes to those that committed the offense. Reporters fuel the problem by assigning blame and pointing fingers in the wrong direction. Start reporting accurately. It would be more constructive.

Posted by mdmom | Report as abusive

The author needs to better research his stories there have been numerous periods throughout US history where restrictions were placed on certain groups of immigrants barring them from entry to the US. This is not a new
phenomenon.

Posted by tbirdsztexas | Report as abusive

Why am I not surprised at this from a MUSLIM? One who believes in the orders of their “holy book” that tells Muslims (“good Muslims”) to lie to infidels and kill, rape, enslave all who will not convert to their vile and evil “religion”.

One who believes that sharia law should be the law in ALL countries. One who would destroy any freedoms for those who now have them. One who is welcomed by Reuters as a contributor.

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive

Note the idiotic, stereotypes of Muslims, the hateful language (“towelheads”)in these commentaries. These are the clueless Trump supporters whose knowledge of Islam and the world beyond their front porch is non-existent.

Posted by Cassiopian | Report as abusive

The western country Muslim clerics need to take a stand and speak out louder regarding extremism. No one in the Muslim community is taking charge of public relations (Al Sharpton) to fight against terror. So naturally, non-Muslims are speaking out. something needs to be done to stop the terrorist and its high on ye list of priories in this next election. doing nothing is not an option.

Posted by cheeze | Report as abusive

World’s media enable IS to spread its message of hatred and genocide. Breathless repeating each IS threat and provocation and airing all the propaganda messages because of the “people’s right to know”.

IS couldn’t recruit without you, Mohamad Bazzi, sitting at your cushy desk at NYU, safe from your fellow muslims

Posted by GetReel | Report as abusive

All these neocons have businesses headquartered in the UAE. Trump included. They delude the conservative voters in the US, who they repeatedly call “stupid” in private, into voting for them. They WANT the voters to become outwardly, rabidly racist so they will have an excuse to suspend democratic institutions. The same way people argue we need dictators in the Middle East because their populations are extreme. Soon people will argue the same for the US. Trump probably won’t win, but if he did, that would be the end of American democracy. The only dissent would be internal, since the rest of the world would prefer a stable dictator at the helm of a crazy populace, and would be crushed by our overpowered law enforcement and police state apparatus.

It’s our fault for not educating everyone.

Posted by Anhioyo | Report as abusive

15 years eligible to vote but never voted because newer saw a candidate worth my vote now with Mr Trump will be the first one at the voting station.
He simply won my heart TRUM-TRUMPTRUMP TRUMP-TRUMPTRUMP is my EKG.

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

I miss the old days when the republican party’s leaders at least pretended not to be racists and bigots (for the most part). Clearly the fear mongering and brainwashing that the GOP has exercised for decade after decade has taken its toll on not only its intended target of its under educated base but has affected its new crop of political wannabe’s who don’t possess an ounce of common sense.
It’s a relief not to have to try and support, or justify, the fear mongering, lies, misinformation, constant hate speech, and lack of any sign of the right doing anything at all positive for the working/middle class in America. The leadership must be proud of the job they’ve done on keeping the gun huggers, skin heads, white supremacist, under educated, and those completely void of common sense, afraid of their own shadows, and anyone who isn’t white. It’s a sad commentary on the state of republican party.

Posted by Whipsplash | Report as abusive