President Trump’s new executive order suspending visas from seven predominantly Muslim countries is a huge gift for ISIS, confirming much of their propaganda and delighting their recruiting officers.
Although a federal court ordered a stay on the deportations last night of some people who had just arrived in the United States, this is only a partial block on the wider order. The general ban on those from the named countries remains.
ISIS has been pushing a line that the West is at war with Islam and that Muslims will be forced to take sides for or against the U.S. and that there will be no “gray zone” in between. ISIS predicted in its glossy magazine Dabiq in 2015 that “The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices ....Eventually, the grayzone will become extinct and there will be no place for grayish calls and movements.”
The visa bans imposed by the new administration chime perfectly with this analysis, and are effectively a blanket ban on Muslims coming from much of the middle east, including those fleeing from ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It’s polarization that ISIS craves, and what President Trump has just handed them.
President Trump has encouraged suspicion against all Muslims, exactly what ISIS is hoping for.
In a 7,000 word essay on “The Extinction of the gray-zone,” ISIS laid out its reasoning for the elimination of any middle ground. TWO CAMPS WITH NO THIRD IN BETWEEN explains the Dabiq headline, and quotes Osama Bin Laden commending President George W. Bush. “The world today is divided into two camps,” said Bin Laden. “Bush spoke the truth when he said ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.”
By preventing many Muslims from coming to America, including those who are already legal permanent residents of the U.S. but happened to be out of the country when the order was issued, President Trump has encouraged suspicion against all Muslims, exactly what ISIS is hoping for.
If a basic rule of war is doing what your enemy least wants you to do, Trump’s action is a massive blunder.
President Obama understood this dynamic, and how important it was to avoid it. Last year he said “Groups like ISIL [ISIS] and al Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions.... That’s their propaganda. That’s how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion ― then we’re doing the terrorists’ work for them...It won’t make us more safe; it will make us less safe ― fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making young Muslims in this country and around the world feel like no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack. It makes Muslim Americans feel like they’re government is betraying them.”
If a basic rule of war is doing what your enemy least wants you to do, Trump’s action is a massive blunder. Quite apart from the moral considerations of what it means to turn people away who are escaping from terrorism, this is a particularly dense move in the fight against ISIS.
Dareen Khalifa is Deputy Director of The Day After Association, an independent, Syrian-led civil society organization working to support democratic transition in Syria. “There will be rejoicing in the ranks of ISIS at what Trump has done,” she said. “It’s a counterproductive, dangerous act that hurts Syria and helps terrorists.”