President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the U.S. has done much more than spur airport protests over the weekend.
One expert on Islamic extremists is warning the move has revitalized a dangerous narrative.
Reaction to President Trump’s executive order has been swift and powerful in the parts of the web Professor Cynthia Combs studies. "I’ve seen it used by individuals who link into a lot of the groups including ISIS but not limited there and they see it as a tool to generate anger against the U.S."
Combs is an internationally recognized expert on Islamic extremism who teaches at UNC Charlotte. She’s studied Islamic terrorism and recruitment since the 1970s.
Combs says the executive order came at an opportune time for terrorist groups like the Islamic State or ISIS for short. "ISIS was weakening," Combs states, "It was losing both funding and winnings on the field. Literally they were losing momentum." But now, she adds, "You’ve given them potentially a great deal of boost, shall we say, in the anger they can spark by simply focusing on this."
And that’s where the narrative comes in.
Despite what Trump says about the order – that it’s based on geography not religion - the order is being portrayed by as proof that America and the West are anti Muslim. This us against them narrative is a powerful tool which can be used to radicalize. "It generates anger," Combs says, "among people who were not radical but can be if their sons, daughters, siblings, whatever are banned from coming here to study, to travel, whatever. Don’t you think that generates anger among non-radicals? And they see it as an us or them type of line."
All this has Combs wondering, "What’s the purpose of these rules? If you’re trying to be able to stop terrorism, this is not rational. Most of the ones who have carried out terrorist acts here had been here already. They were not refugees coming in. Most of the recruitment is done on the web so the people coming in aren’t recruiting."
Overall, Combs says, this will not make America safer because "it basically handed them a weapon to use against us and that may cause a great deal of damage."