How war on Islam became central to the Trump doctrine

An apocalyptic view of Islamist terrorism is the thread that connects key figures in the Trump administration and underpins this weekend’s immigration chaos. But is their ramped-up rhetoric just giving terrorists what they want?

By David Shariatmadari / The Guardian / Monday 30 January 2017 12.38 EST


It was the moment the world sat up and started to take notice of the US presidential campaign. Donald Trump had made headlines before, in June 2015, when he had called for a “great, great wall” along the Mexican border. Back then, he was hovering around ninth place in a crowded field of Republican candidates. But by 7 December, when he released a short statement calling for the “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration, he was the frontrunner for his party’s nomination. His message, that Islam itself was a threat to America, was heard loud and clear across the globe, not least by 1.6 billion Muslims.

Now, as president, he appears to be following through. On Friday he stunned us again by announcing that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries – encompassing around 220 million people – would be barred from entering the US for 90 days. On Sunday, his long-time ally, Rudy Giuliani, traced the order back to a conversation about the “Muslim ban” in which Trump asked him to “show me the right way to do it legally”. While commentators have had their work cut out trying to follow the twists and turns of Trump’s logic on everything from climate change to the CIA, on this issue his attitude has been consistent. If there is a Trump doctrine, “war on Islam” has to be a strong contender.


Trump with Rudy Giuliani, whom the president asked how to ‘legally’ create a Muslim ban. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

An apocalyptic view of Islamist terrorism is the thread that connects many of his appointments, be they military men, Breitbarters or TV pundits. National security adviser Michael Flynn has written: “I’m totally convinced that, without a proper sense of urgency, we will be eventually defeated, dominated, and very likely destroyed,” adding: “Do you want to be ruled by men who eagerly drink the blood of their dying enemies?”

Flynn’s deputy, KT Macfarland  argued that, without American leadership, global jihadism will “usher in its version of paradise – the destruction of the apostates and unbelievers and the triumph of the caliphate”. National Security Council member Sebastian Gorka wrote: “America is now in a threat environment that makes some … look back wistfully at the cold-war years when the only real threat was the spread of communism”. Today, the official Trump platform includes the pledge: “We will defeat the ideology of radical Islamic terrorism just as we won the cold war.”


Stephen Bannon: ‘We are “at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic facisim’ Photograph: Andrew Harrer/EPS

Steve Bannon, the man whom many regard as the ideological linchpin of the administration, believes we are “at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism”. In a surprise move at the weekend, Bannon was appointed to the council, the principal body advising the president on foreign policy and intelligence.

Members of that team differ in the extent to which they distinguish between Islam and violent distortions of it. Before his appointment to the administration, Flynn, for example, tweeted a YouTube video with the title “Fear o