One of the most illogical and often repeated falsehoods perpetuated today is the idea that the Trump administration’s immigration policies will serve as a recruitment tool for Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS.
It is one of the primary arguments some are using to fight the President’s travel ban. These critics seem to believe that a weakening ISIS might be able to increase its numbers because President Donald Trump has enacted policies they don’t like.
In a piece written for the Jerusalem Post, Samia Nakhoul states,
But Middle East experts and IS supporters say his election triumph could help revive the group’s fortunes. They also believe his move late last month to temporarily ban refugees and bar nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries could work in the group’s favor.
She goes on to say,
The executive order, on which IS has been silent, is in limbo after being overturned by a judge. But whether or not it is reinstated, it has angered Muslims across the world who, despite Trump’s denials, see it as evidence that he and his administration are Islamophobic.
It seems to make sense, doesn’t it? If ISIS wants to paint the United States as being Islamophobic, the travel ban would appear to make it easier to accomplish that objective.
But thus far there simply is no evidence — not one shred of proof — of ISIS using the travel ban as a recruitment tool.
This argument flawed because it assumes Muslims are not capable of thinking for themselves; it paints them as reactionary victims who are perpetually angry. And it suggests that Muslims are constantly on the verge of radicalization — looking for a reason to take up arms.
Not only is this argument demeaning to Muslims, but it is also erroneous. To wit, Simon Cottee, in an article for The Atlantic writes,
From within this dehumanizing perspective, your average Muslim doesn’t do anything, and he or she certainly doesn’t make things happen. Rather, things are done or happen to them; they are “pushed” or “driven” to extremes by forces beyond their control. They are “inflamed,” “provoked,” “humiliated.” They are, in other words, a negative emotion waiting to happen. The former Islamist and writer Maajid Nawaz calls this “the racism of lowered expectations.” No doubt many Muslims oppose the ban, but the idea that some of the more “vulnerable” among them—to use the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) buzzword—will want to wreak murderous vengeance for it against their fellow Americans is dangerous.
The contention that Trump’s policies will help ISIS recruit more followers does not take into account the myriad of factors that contribute to radicalization. While grievances against the U.S. government can certainly contribute to radicalization, other elements play a role. Cottee makes this very point,
Second, and connectedly, it posits an overly simplistic understanding of jihadist radicalization, linking this exclusively to grievances over domestic and foreign policy. But everything we know about radicalization and terrorism suggests that it is far more complex than this and cannot be reduced to secular political grievances.
As an example, European countries have eagerly accepted refugees and immigrants from predominantly Islamic countries. There have been no travel bans in any European countries, and yet countries like France have suffered from numerous terrorist attacks.
Many Muslims may not agree with President Trump’s policies. They may not have even a favorable opinion of the President. But it is highly unlikely that there will be a significant number of Muslims who will respond to President Trump’s new immigration policies by scurrying to join up with a radical terrorist organization.
Distorted theories and suppositions about ISIS can be dangerous because it keeps the U.S. from focusing on the real problem: Islamic terrorism. President Trump’s current policies are not going to radicalize Muslims, but they will at least work toward keeping radical elements outside of our borders.