An expert on jihadists says recent comments by chief White House political strategist Stephen Bannon apparently has refocused militants’ attention on the United States, raising danger levels, Think Progress reported Wednesday.
Bannon’s picture wound up on the front page of al Qaeda-affiliated al Masra, which highlighted his negative remarks on Islam and nationalist policies that back the notion the West and Islam are incompatible – a narrative oddly in tune with the outlook of al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Pembroke College at Oxford University, in England said the uptick in Bannon coverage from such organs, which crib heavily from Western media, clearly has made “America … a more prominent target.”
“Trump has created an upsurge in militant jihadist attention on America — it was previously on America but also on many other targets like Shiites in Yemen, Iraq and even Syria — but this has really refocused attention on America itself,” Kendall said.
Charlie Winter, a senior fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College London, told CNN things like President Donald Trump’s executive order — since stayed by the courts — barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries can only play into the radicals’ propaganda message.
“If you are serious about defeating ISIS, the last thing you want to do is portray the fight as Islam versus the West,” Fawaz Gerges, chairman of contemporary Middle East studies at the London School of Economics and author of “ISIS: A History,” told CNN.
But Simon Cottee, a visiting senior fellow with the Freedom Project at Wellesley College, said in an analysis in the Atlantic the travel ban actually has done the opposite, reinforcing the “gray zone” where Muslims co-exist with non-Muslims because of the protests the executive order prompted.
What the executive order did, Cottee posited, was not make Americans less safe but make Muslims in America less safe by emboldening the far right.
“[Trump’s] hateful and polarizing rhetoric has cleared the path for a violent blowback aimed not at non-Muslim Americans, but at ordinary, decent Muslims who even liberal Americans can't help but implicitly demonize as terrorists-in-the-making,” Cottee said.