On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump handed the Islamic State and its likeminded rivals a symbolic victory when he announced he would immediately suspend immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. By stopping the citizens of Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and Iran from entering the United States for 90 days, and from Syria indefinitely, the new American president worked wonders for salafi-jihadist ideologues the world over.
Citing, on Sunday, the “horrible mess” of Europe as his justification for the policy—which has already brought thousands out in protest at airports and street corners around the world—Trump’s position can be summarized as follows: By stopping citizens of countries that are “sources of terror” from entering into the United States of America, he will reduce the threat presented by “infiltration by foreign terrorists.” (It’s worth noting, as the New America Foundation has, that “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.”) In any case, reaffirming his position in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday, Trump contended that “this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
If only this were the case. Not only does the policy miss the point, it betrays a worryingly superficial understanding of the threat from Islamist terrorism. The ban also has the power to make things much worse—it will go far to symbolically aid and abet the very terrorists that the president says he wants to keep out, popularizing and reinforcing their binary worldview. Unwittingly, the new administration is building the world that salafi-jihadists so dearly want to inhabit, one where “crusader governments and citizens” are seen to be persecuting Sunni Muslims en masse and in which the conspiracy about there being a U.S.-orchestrated “war on Islam” actually rings true.