President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and others, taps on the table after signing an executive order for immigration actions to build a border wall, Jan. 25, 2017, at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and others, taps on the table after signing an executive order for immigration actions to build a border wall, Jan. 25, 2017, at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Trump's Immigration Order Is a Propaganda Victory for ISIS

The American president has reinforced the victimhood narrative at the core of the Islamic State’s recruitment pitch.

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump handed the Islamic State and its likeminded rivals a symbolic victory when he announced he would immediately suspend immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. By stopping the citizens of Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and Iran from entering the United States for 90 days, and from Syria indefinitely, the new American president worked wonders for salafi-jihadist ideologues the world over.

Citing, on Sunday, the “horrible mess” of Europe as his justification for the policy—which has already brought thousands out in protest at airports and street corners around the world—Trump’s position can be summarized as follows: By stopping citizens of countries that are “sources of terror” from entering into the United States of America, he will reduce the threat presented by “infiltration by foreign terrorists.” (It’s worth noting, as the New America Foundation has, that “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.”) In any case, reaffirming his position in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday, Trump contended that “this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

If only this were the case. Not only does the policy miss the point, it betrays a worryingly superficial understanding of the threat from Islamist terrorism. The ban also has the power to make things much worse—it will go far to symbolically aid and abet the very terrorists that the president says he wants to keep out, popularizing and reinforcing their binary worldview. Unwittingly, the new administration is building the world that salafi-jihadists so dearly want to inhabit, one where “crusader governments and citizens” are seen to be persecuting Sunni Muslims en masse and in which the conspiracy about there being a U.S.-orchestrated “war on Islam” actually rings true.  

As one of the Islamic State’s fans recently wrote on Telegram, when it comes to cleaving the world in two and undermining the prospects of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims, the self-proclaimed caliphate has a friend in Trump, a man that is “just stupid enough to do it for us.”

There’s no question that Trump’s latest policy blunder will be spun as hard evidence for the Islamist extremist reading of global politics, impacting the ability of groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda to influence and recruit. After all, a sense of grievance, when agitated correctly, can be a powerful thing. It can even serve as a way to galvanize support and justify the most extreme violence.

See also: What Trump's Reshuffling of the National Security Council Means
Read more: ‘Even a Shining City on a Hill Needs Walls’: Senator Tom Cotton
And don't miss 5 Things to Know Before the US Reduces Its Role at the UN

Of course, it’s not just salafi-jihadists that instrumentally value victimhood. Indeed, behind almost all extremist outrages lurks an artificially augmented conception of victimhood. It was, as the academic Nicholas O’Shaughnessy points out, a carefully cultivated narrative of victimhood that provided Adolf Hitler with the justification he wanted to attack the rest of Europe in 1939. It was a not dissimilar sense of victimhood that Timothy McVeigh cited as his reason for carrying out a “retaliatory strike” against the federal government in Oklahoma in 1996. Likewise, it was the victimhood narrative that al-Qaeda took to in order to justify its killing of thousands of civilians in the United States on September 11, 2001. Salafi-jihadists have in fact been parroting the victimhood line for decades now—and that’s not going to change—but what makes Trump’s latest actions so problematic is how they will be interpreted by those who would otherwise be America’s allies.

What many thought would only ever be crude and bombastic campaign rhetoric is fast becoming reality. And, monitoring this more closely than anyone else, probably rubbing their hands with glee, are extremists like those in ISIS, who have explicitly stated a goal of polarizing society and fomenting anti-Muslim hatred. While it may seem counterintuitive, when conditions are bad for Muslims in the West, salafi-jihadists are closer to achieving this goal. They want to foster communal vulnerability and generalized disillusionment—in so doing, they create their own recruitment opportunities and are able to frame themselves as a panacea, an immediate alternative to the status quo.

They can now declare with more gusto than ever that the White House is indeed at war with Islam, that all it wants from the Middle East is oil, and that it incorporates neither ethics nor morals into its myopic pursuit of global hegemony. In this sense, the new president is doing the Islamic State’s propaganda for it, buoying the caliphate in its time of need, and helping make up for its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria.

If Trump continues on this trajectory, it will help the Islamic State idea to live on, even if Mosul falls tomorrow and Raqqa the day after. In any case, the reverberations from his first 10 days in office will be sure to far outlive his time as president.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.