President Donald Trump and the Islamic State group are in agreement when it comes to an immigration ban against travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Or at least that's the way one prominent scholar on terrorism tells it.
"ISIS, at official levels, has ignored the Trump executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, in spite of the widely voiced claim that it has been a propaganda victory for the group," Simon Cottee, a contributing writer for The Atlantic and a visiting senior fellow with the Freedom Project at Wellesley College in Massachusetts who specializes in terrorism, wrote in an op-ed Thursday in the New York Daily News. "There are several possible reasons for ISIS’ seeming reluctance to engage with Trump and the travel ban. First, ISIS has far more pressing matters to contend with and to propagandize about right now — like trying to show the world that it isn’t losing its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Second, ISIS doesn’t need to propagandize about what it sees as the 'true' thuggish and fascistic face of America, because Trump himself is doing such an effective job at disseminating this image... On the issue of the travel ban, ISIS and Trump are seemingly in alignment: Both are adamant that Muslims should not migrate to the west, least of all America. Whereas Trump and his advisors think that Muslim migrants are a potential threat to U.S. national security, ISIS demonizes the same group as apostates and deserters."
While ISIS supporters did discuss the ban online, generally praising it as a recruiting tool to turn Muslims against Washington, it's true that Islamic State group leaders have stayed mum about it so far. That's because ISIS in general seems to pay little attention to Trump, Cottee said.
"Trump is the personification of everything the jihadists hate: He is materialistic, arrogant and anti-Muslim. He is also the president of the United States, which makes him the ideal poster boy (if this is the right expression for a coiffed, orange-hued 70-year-old) for the jihadists’ claim that America is a corrupt and sinful society at war with Islam," he wrote. "So it’s curious that Trump has thus far featured so little in ISIS propaganda — just twice, in fact. The first time was in March last year, when the pro-ISIS al-Battar Media Foundation released a video in which the then Republican presidential nominee, in an audio clip, referred to Brussels as an 'absolute horror show,' in response to the terrorist attacks there. His second and last cameo was in June, when he appeared briefly as a talking-head in a video celebrating the Orlando attack."
Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist websites, has also pointed out ISIS' silence when it comes to the Trump administration in recent weeks. "At the official level, there have been no direct mentions of the travel ban by ISIS, Al Qaeda, or any other major jihadi terrorist organization," she told the factchecking site PolitiFact earlier this month. "Even the sixth issue of ISIS’ monthly Rumiyah magazine, which was released this past Saturday, did not mention it."
Trump signed an executive order in January temporarily banning travelers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the U.S. He also banned Syrian refugees from indefinitely coming to the U.S. The order was soon challenged in courts and then essentially shut down by federal judges with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Trump administration has said it will unveil a new travel ban to ensure national security, but that hasn't happened yet and it's unclear what restrictions will be enacted by the new executive order.
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