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Jihadists React to President Trump’s Executive Order

Alex Kassirer
Terrorism

Key Takeaways

• Since President Trump’s inauguration, jihadists have discussed what they perceive to be growing anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States, with many claiming that the U.S. is showing its “true face.”

• This chatter has increased since President Trump’s executive order on January 27, 2017, which banned travel from several Muslim-majority countries, including Syria and Iraq.

• In addition to equating the executive order with anti-Islamic sentiment, jihadists have commented that the exclusion of several countries from the list, such as Saudi Arabia, can be attributed to financial considerations.

• Despite the abundance of chatter within the jihadist community, there have yet to be any official statements from ISIS, al-Qaida, or other terrorist groups regarding either the executive order or general commentary about Trump’s presidency.

Background

Even before Donald Trump’s election, jihadists expressed the prevailing view that his presidency would be a “disaster to America” and reveal “the honest American feeling…against Islam.” Though neither ISIS, al-Qaida, nor any other jihadist organization has officially articulated how his presidency will benefit their causes, members of the jihadist community have been vocal in predicting how the United States will suffer with Trump as president. According to one jihadist:

I see America collapsing in the coming years and with Trump’s presence, it will be the final strike.

This type of chatter appears to have intensified in light of President Trump’s executive order on January 27, 2017, which banned travel from several Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Following the announcement of the executive order, jihadists allegiant to a range of groups, including ISIS and al-Qaida, were quick to react. One individual posted a quote from radical American jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike in Yemen, which proclaimed, “The West will eventually turn against its Muslims citizens.” The individual who shared the quote added:

When the U.S. President Donald Trump says ‘we don’t want them here’ and bans the Muslim immigrants from Muslim countries there is one thing that comes to our mind #ImamAnwarAwlaki #YouSpokeTheHaqqLongTimeAgo.

Another individual proclaimed:

What Trump has done has clearly revealed the truth, and harsh reality behind the American government’s hatred towards Muslims #MuslimBan.

Others pointed to the demonstrations that erupted following the January 27 executive order, saying:

What is Trump doing to his country? He just become president and already people protesting against his policy and worldwide countries criticizing him. Trump will bring America down…

Jihadists also considered the exclusion of several countries from the executive order to be significant:

Why didn’t Trump ban Saudi Arabia? Because U.S. only want our oil they don’t care about us.

Speaking to those countries that were included, however, a pro-ISIS actor shared a news headline that read: “Iraqi general who works with American military kept from visiting U.S.” This individual quipped that those “most affected by U.S. ban are the [apostates],” insinuating that the expressed targets of the order, namely ISIS and its supporters, are relatively unaffected.

Perhaps most notably, a jihadist who has been quite outspoken about the President, and specifically his January 27 executive order, weighed in on the debate about whether jihadists may leverage “[Trump’s actions to] recruit many new mujahideen”. To that end, he predicted,

If he keeps it up like this I think he will revive the jihad…

It remains to be seen whether ISIS, al-Qaida, or other jihadist groups will release official statements regarding the executive order.

Assessment

Official media outlets that serve groups like ISIS have contributed very little to the discussion of Trump’s presidency as it pertains to his effect on U.S. global standing or the appeal of anti-U.S. extremism. However, even prior to Trump’s inauguration, jihadists that operate online have been vocal in hypothesizing that Trump’s presidency would both destroy the U.S. and show the country’s “true face,” alluding to purported American Islamophobic sentiment. Since the January 27, 2017, executive order, jihadists circulating these theories have used the travel ban to support such claims.

These insights were gleaned from jihadi underground sources on the Deep & Dark Web.

About the author: Alex Kassirer

Alex Kassirer
Alex is a Senior Counterterrorism analyst at Flashpoint and on-air analyst for NBC. She has assisted law enforcement and intelligence agencies in terrorism investigations and prosecutions, and consults private sector organizations on both physical and cyber security. Ms. Kassirer has presented to various audiences, including law enforcement, on monitoring and addressing the threat that stems from jihadists. Ms. Kassirer holds an MS in Global Affairs with a concentration in Transnational Security from NYU and BA in International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict & Security and a Minor in Religion from the Elliott School of International Affairs at GW, where she also studied Arabic.