Let me begin by stating that Donald Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from travelling and immigrating to the United States is immoral in principle and unworkable in practice.
With that said, it is one thing to disagree with Trump’s Muslim proposal, but quite another to suggest that his proposal is enough to drive Muslims to join ISIS. Over the past few days, several public figures have made this assertion.
It began with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who stated in an interview with CNN that Trump is a “recruitment poster” for ISIS.
Later in the week, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Malala Yousafzai stated that Trump’s proposals would “radicalize more terrorists.” She made her remarks during a commemoration on the anniversary of the Taliban massacre at the military school in Peshawar, Pakistan, which claimed the lives of 148 people, including 134 children.
Then during the Democratic presidential debate on Saturday night in Manchester, New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton stated that Trump is “becoming ISIS’ best recruiter.” The Democrat front-runner went further and claimed that ISIS was “showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”
To his credit, ABC’s Jonathan Karl immediately cast doubt on Hillary’s claims and to date no evidence has been found that ISIS is using Trump as a recruitment tool. Naturally none of this has stopped Hillary’s campaign from continuing to make this claim. A Hillary spokesperson said that she wasn’t referring to a video, but rather social media. A distinction without difference. But, of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Hillary has lied about an internet video.
Yet for Andrew Cuomo, Malala Yousafzai, and Hillary Clinton to suggest that Donald Trump’s rhetoric will help swell the ranks of ISIS betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what they actually represent.
Although ISIS utilizes the technology of the 21st century, their mindset is firmly ensconced in the seventh. Carefully consider what Graeme Wood wrote earlier this year about ISIS in an article for the Atlantic earlier this year titled “What ISIS Really Wants”:
There is a temptation to rehearse this observation — that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguises — and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.
The most articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not — cannot — waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and text of early Islam.
Simply put, ISIS doesn’t give a damn what Donald Trump says about Muslims and Islam. In their eyes, for all his money, he is nothing more than yet another infidel, another “modern.” In this sense, ISIS views Trump no differently than they view Hillary Clinton nor do they give a damn who we elect President next year. Ditto for Andrew Cuomo. As for a Muslim such as Malala, ISIS views her as a heretic and if given the chance would finish the job the Taliban started.
While most Muslims are no doubt genuinely offended by Trump’s proposals, do Cuomo, Malala, and Hillary honestly believe that his words alone are sufficient to drive Muslims to murder concert goers in Paris, rape American relief workers, burn Jordanian pilots alive, or shoot down their co-workers at a Christmas party in San Bernardino? It takes a certain kind of person who is prepared to strap on a vest full of explosives or to fire a weapon at unarmed civilians. If Hillary, Cuomo, and Malala honestly believe Trump’s words possess that kind of power to make Muslims take up explosives and firearms, then it means that they don’t hold Muslims with any higher regard than Trump does.
Donald Trump is guilty of many things. Being a recruiter for ISIS is not one of them.
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