Anne Speckhard & Lorand Bodo, Republished in On Faith
“Trump is the perfect enemy bc [because] the hypocrites can no longer deny that the U.S. is darul harb [the land at war with Islam],” an ISIS supporter writes on Facebook in response to the recent and ‘extreme-vetting’ Executive Order of President Trump that bans Muslim immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban has sparked international outrage among people of all faiths and has provoked sharp criticism from some U.S. corporations, such as Apple, Google, Lyft and Microsoft that employ many Muslim immigrants.
But among the most interesting reactions we’ve read are those of ISIS supporters who are also having their say on social media.
As the ban was announced, the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) was inside the social network of ISIS supporters on Facebook and the encrypted messaging app, Telegram, to test the effectiveness of our project, Breaking the ISIS Brand – ISIS Counter-Narratives. We are testing the impact of videos that appear to be ISIS propaganda but are interviews of real ISIS defectors who denounce the group, to critically analyze recipients thinking and online-behavior. Coincidentally, our testing also provided us with unique and real-time insight into how those who endorse violent extremists view current American politics and this Muslim travel ban.
The following comments came from a sample of thirty English-speaking Facebook users who were identified as ISIS sympathizers via their network, comments and postings:
Many Facebook posts of those endorsing ISIS showed the same picture – Muslim immigrants standing side-by-side, facing east and praying together at U.S. airports. Supporters of extremism twisted this solidarity for their own means. We know that extremists desire unity of the global Muslim population to exploit and funnel this unity into their own dreams of global dominion. So one ISIS supporter wrote, “Thanks to Donald Trump, Airports in America appear to be mosques these days.” Another noted, “Trump wanted to intimidate Muslims, so his airports have turned into mosques.” Indeed these pictures show strong Muslim solidarity, though there is no evidence of support among any of them for violence.
ISIS supporters on Facebook referred to President Trump as the anti-Christ [dajaal]. “America has just crowned the new amir ul-Muskrikeen [leader of the polytheists]. May Allah use him to unite the Muslims and hasten the victory of Islam.” Another wrote, “Everyone is waiting for Imam Mahdi [the End Times leader], but realize dajaal [anti-Christ] is on his way. May Allah strengthen us in our deen [religion] and grant us istiqaman [steadfastness].”
There was plenty of belief — and outrage — at the West’s perceived ‘war on Islam’ [“darul harb”]. One person wrote: “These kuffars [unbelievers] are allies of each other against Muslims!” Another pointed out the progression of how U.S. Presidents name terrorist and insurgent groups: “Clinton – Taliban! Taliban! Taliban! – Bush – Al-Qaeda! Al-Qaeda! Al-Qaeda! – Obama – ISIS! ISIsS! ISIS! – Trump – “Islam! Islam! Islam!”
ISIS supporters are no easier on fellow Muslims. One post stated in caps, “IT DESERVES YOU RIGHT FOR NOT STANDING BY YOUR ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES. YOU HUMILIATED YOURSELF TO ‘FIT-IN’ INTO AMERICA, AND NOW THEY’RE HAPPILY SPITTING YOU OUT.” Some point out to one another that they should not be seeking to immigrate to a non-Muslim country. Others turned hurt and anger over rejection into threats of violence, “Who wants to go there anyway? The only time I want to go is with the army of Isa a.s. [Jesus] to break the cross kill the pig and when there’s no option of jizyah. Allahu Akbar.” (This post refers to End Times beliefs that Jesus will return to lead an army to fight the dajaal [anti-Christ]. But in this version, Jews and Christians will not have the option of paying taxes [jizyah] in the newly formed state but will have to convert. He adds the call “Allahu Akbar” which means God is Greatest, but is also often the call made before a suicide attack.)
In these videos we are testing online, real ISIS defectors who were disillusioned and successfully escaped, forcefully say that ISIS is not Islam, ISIS is not the answer. But when the American President presents the perfect opportunity for ISIS to exploit vulnerable and alienated people around the world, it makes speaking effectively against any terrorist group all the more difficult.
Intolerance begets intolerance. Hate begets hate.
President Donald Trump may have declared: “This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe,” but tell that to the banned Muslim-majority countries. The travel ban is about religion – a very specific major religion; it is not about effective counter-terrorism, and it will not keep America safe. Hopefully, we will not see a rise in homegrown and international terrorism as a result.
About the authors:
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, Georgetown University, and Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). She is the author and co-author of seven books including, her most recent is ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate, Website: https://www.icsve.org
Lorand Bodo is a Research Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism and is currently pursuing a four-year integrated Ph.D. at the Security and Crime Science Department at University College London. His research focuses on exploring radicalizing settings and risk management of terrorism threats.