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Trump: We're fighting 'sneaky, dirty rats'
01:53 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: The following is an edited excerpt from “The secret costs of Islamophobia,” first published in September 2016.

CNN  — 

President Donald Trump said his new executive order on immigration and refugees is targeted squarely at “radical Islamic terrorists.”

“We don’t want them here,” he said Friday.

So why are jihadists celebrating?

Trump says the executive order is not a “Muslim ban,” even though it bars citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for three months and gives preference to non-Muslim refugees.

“This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.”

But experts say almost every country with Muslims will be affected by the order, because it makes it easier for ISIS and Al Qaeda to recruit alienated young believers. That applies to the United States as well.

RELATED: Trump ban is boon for ISIS recruitment, former jihadists and experts say

Here’s how:

ISIS’ goal is to divide the world into two camps: “the crusaders” and “the caliphate.” No Christians living in Muslim lands; no Muslims living in Christian countries.

Its message to Western Muslims: You don’t belong there. Come to the caliphate where you can live as a true Muslim.

“This revival of the Khilāfah gave each individual Muslim a concrete and tangible entity to satisfy his natural desire for belonging to something greater,” ISIS said in a recent edition of its online magazine Dabiq.

In the same edition – alongside interviews with ISIS fighters, articles praising “martyrs” and gruesome photos of its beheaded and burned victims – ISIS argued that Muslims in the West are living in a “grayzone.”


  • This series explores the lives of Muslims in the age of ISIS and Islamophobia.

    “Grayzones” are areas where Muslims practice their religion peacefully in non-Muslim countries. ISIS wants to eliminate these zones, in part by turning non-Muslims against their Muslim neighbors. Each terrorist attack chips away a little more grayzone, as Westerners marginalize Muslims, pushing them, ISIS hopes, into the caliphate’s open arms.

    “Muslims in the crusader countries will find themselves driven to abandon their homes for a place to live in the (caliphate), as the crusaders increase persecution against Muslims living in Western lands. …”

    In the United States, the vast majority of Muslims reject that message, but a few are inspired by it.

    According to a study of 101 Americans charged with ISIS-related crimes, half were born in the country and most were citizens. Most were men under 30, one-third had converted to Islam. The vast majority expressed dissatisfaction with living in the United States, and 90% reportedly said they wanted to join the caliphate, perhaps heeding the call to surrender their lives to a larger cause, no matter how violent or quixotic.

    “Overall, there is a sense of identity crises and alienation from society across a wide range of cases,” the report says. “Anxieties over not fitting in, examples of personal isolation and social anger are frequent.”

    Those anxieties are often exacerbated, if not incited, by Islamophobia, said Sarah Lyons-Padilla, a social psychologist at Stanford University who has studied radicalization among young American Muslims.

    American Muslims who felt hopeless, rejected and insignificant because of anti-Muslim discrimination were more willing to support extremist groups and causes, according to a study Lyons-Padilla led last year.

    “ISIS would love to make all Muslims believe that the West is anti-Islam,” the psychologist said. “When American politicians and citizens spread anti-Muslim rhetoric, be it through discriminatory policies or online trolling, they send the message that Muslims aren’t ‘real Americans’ and that being Muslim is something to be ashamed of. In other words, they’re basically helping ISIS recruit.”

    Counterterrorism officials agree.

    In a recent Washington Post op-ed, retired US Army Gen. and former CIA Director David Petraeus said he has grown increasingly concerned about anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States.

    “As policy, these concepts are totally counterproductive,” Petraeus said. “Rather than making our country safer, they will compound the already grave terrorist danger to our citizens. As ideas, they are toxic and, indeed, non-biodegradable – a kind of poison that, once released into our body politic, is not easily expunged.”

    A Donald Trump supporter holds up an anti-Muslim poster near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.

    The number of American Muslims who radicalize is small, especially when compared with other Western countries, said William McCants, director of the Brookings Institution’s Project on US Relations with the Islamic World.

    Law enforcement experts estimate that about 250 Americans have tried to join ISIS, far fewer than the thousands who have flocked to Syria and Iraq from countries such as France and Belgium.

    “I would argue that American Islam is doing something right in contrast to these other countries,” McCants said.

    Most American Muslims are integrated and feel content with their lives, in sharp contrast with many Muslims in Western Europe, according to the 2011 Pew Center report. Nearly 90% speak English fluently, and more than 8 in 10 are citizens. Most say they see no conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.

    Still, 81 Muslim-Americans were associated with violent plots in 2015, the highest annual total since 9/11, according to the Triangle Center.

    Omar Suleiman, a popular cleric who lives in Dallas, said he has sparred with young Muslims attracted to ISIS’ black-and-white theology. Often, they are first- and second-generation immigrants who have grown up with some discrimination and “a whole lot of other-ness and awkwardness,” he said. They are angry young men, frustrated with dead-end careers, irked by clerics who refuse to address controversial topics and incensed about the suffering of Muslims overseas in the Palestinian territories and Syria.

    “When they find that people aren’t addressing their concerns in an authentic way, they fall prey to Internet radicalism,” Suleiman said. “They become disconnected from the mosque and disconnected from the American Muslim community.”