“Trump has created an upsurge in militant jihadist attention on America,” says one expert.
The American media has devoted a lot of attention to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon in recent weeks, particularly after he labeled them the “opposition party” and the “enemy.” In an odd twist of fate, Bannon recently appeared on the front page of newspaper connected to a literal enemy of America: Al Qaeda.
The front page article from Al Qaeda-affiliated publication Al Masra features a photo of Bannon and references negative comments he’s made against Islam. The appearance of Bannon in jihadist media shows how policies forged by his nationalist policies support the notion that the West and Islam are incompatible— a narrative pushed not only by the White House, but by groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, a Senior Research Fellow in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Pembroke College at Oxford University, first noted Bannon’s cameo in Al Masra on Twitter earlier this week.
Papers like Al Qaeda’s Al Masra heavily plagiarize Western media; it’s not uncommon to find quotes from outlets like the Economist, the Guardian, or the Atlantic, Kendall told ThinkProgress. The recent uptick in press coverage of Bannon’s influence could be why he’s found a place in Al Qaeda literature.
Jihadist groups keep tabs on the American political arena and will have noted the growing anti-Muslim sentiment emanating from the higher echelons of power. Bannon and Trump’s anti-Muslim sentiments have clearly influenced jihadist groups.
“America is clearly becoming a more prominent target,” Kendall told ThinkProgress. “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.”
In fact, said Kendall, a February 2017 Al Masra issue mentioned America more than twice as much as one January 2016 issue.
Bannon is thought to be one of the driving forces behind the Trump administration’s Muslim ban and similar policies targeting Muslim people. He has spent years alluding to an imagined clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.
“If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing,” Bannon said in a 2014 talk delivered to the Institute for Human Dignity, a conservative Catholic group based in Rome.
Experts say Bannon’s policies actually empower the ISIS message.
“[The Muslim ban policy is] far more potent than any video or other piece of propaganda,” Charlie Winter, a senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London, told CNN.
“If you are serious about defeating ISIS, the last thing you want to do is portray the fight as Islam vs. the West,” Fawaz Gerges, chairman of contemporary Middle East studies at the London School of Economics and author of “ISIS: A History,” told CNN.