Does Trump’s Rhetoric Really “Provoke” Jihadis?



Last Thursday, Egypt executed Abel Habara, the leader of an Islamic State-aligned jihad group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, for his leading role in several jihad massacres. In response, the Islamic State (ISIS) vowed “a volcano of jihad” against Egypt. And so once again we saw a jihad group acting as if it had been provoked to jihad by the actions of its foes – echoing the claim of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party and the establishment propaganda media, that President-elect Donald Trump’s supposedly hateful and incendiary rhetoric toward Muslims aids in jihad recruitment.

The establishment media has been running a series of stories since the election with the not-so-hidden subtext that Trump’s policies regarding Muslims will only make the global jihad worse. They claim he provides fodder to the jihadis that they can use to recruit Muslims who might otherwise have been peaceful. The political and media elites have internalized the idea that various things we do provoke the jihadis — Trump’s rhetoric, the proposed immigration ban, drawing cartoons of Muhammad, etc. — and if we just stop doing them, all will be well.

But is this really true? The Abel Habara case offers an instructive analogy. He was executed for his jihad activity. Because he was executed, the Islamic State vowed more jihad activity. See, any pushback, any resistance to the jihad threat is taken by Islamic jihadis as a new provocation. They will throw it up at those who are resisting as being the cause of more jihad: Because you have executed our man, or Because you want to limit Muslim immigration, or Because you have bombed our training camps, or what have you, we will rain down death upon you. But the execution didn’t provoke the jihad, as Habara himself was waging jihad already. The execution is just the latest pretext for jihad. There was a different pretext before Habara was executed, and there will be another later.

Yet there does seem to be more to the idea that Trump is provoking jihadis. After all, Abu Omar Khorasani, an Islamic State commander in Afghanistan, said this about Trump: “This guy is a complete maniac. His utter hate towards Muslims will make our job much easier because we can recruit thousands.”

It is true that the Islamic State and al-Qaeda often recruit on the basis of grievance narratives against the West. Maybe they will be able to draw some fighters to their cause by invoking the specter of Trump. But to assume that all would be well if Trump and others would simply stop saying things that provoke Muslims would be naïve. The Islamic State recently explained why in an article in its Dabiq magazine:

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Even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam.

This the coup de grace to the claim that Trump is enflaming the jihadis: the jihad imperative is not based on how good the infidels are to the Muslims. The Qur’an simply commands Muslims to wage war against and subjugate infidels, and not just those unbelievers who resist jihad attacks or commit various “provocations.” It makes no exceptions for those who do not fight back, or who do not fight back effectively, or who watch their words. The fact is that they wish to rain down death upon us no matter what we do.

If Hillary Clinton had been elected and had continued the Obama administration’s policies of denial and willful ignorance toward the jihad threat, and had she also facilitated a massive new influx of Muslim migrants, the jihadis would not have been pacified. In fact, they would have been bolder than ever. Their primary motivation for hating us has nothing whatsoever to do with our statements. They hate the United States because we are not a Muslim government that implements Islamic law.

The mainstream media’s avid propagation of the idea that Trump’s victory has cheered the jihadis tells us more about the media’s agenda than it does about the jihadis. Those who decry Trump’s rhetoric as needlessly “provocative” don’t realize, or don’t care to admit, that if we do actually curtail our behavior to suit Muslim sensibilities, the jihadis will not be pacified, but emboldened at the sight of what they will see our weakness. To change our behavior to suit them will only make them more aggressive and demanding — and lethal.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.

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