Donald Trump’s recent invective against Muslims comes in the wake of a rising tide of religious and ethnic intolerance that has gripped the world. From PEGIDA in Europe to Narendra Modi’s increasingly authoritarian regime, religious and ethnic minorities, particularly Muslims have faced the brunt of an intolerant discourse that aims to marginalize and ostracize peace-loving Muslims who form a fundamental part of society in western nations. Donald Trump’s diatribe comes at a time when he is aiming to win the GOP’s presidential ticket and it aims to divulge in the mass hysteria that has emerged, and has in effect been extant since the 9/11 attacks, in the wake of radical attacks carried out in the western world in the name of the Islamic State (IS). Trump’s rallies have attracted increasing numbers of supporters as the untenable belief that the radical ideology the IS holds to is pervading an increasing number of ordinary Muslims takes hold of a greater number of western individuals, a claim that is vindicated by Trump’s increasing popularity. It is hard to fathom then, that the very solution Mr. Trump and his followers propound feeds into the propaganda the IS is using to increase its control and outreach.
Radical groups such as the IS feed on hardline narratives that promote and disseminate their goals. They foster an ‘us against them’ mentality that portrays the world through a Manichean sense- a follower of the IS is on the correct path, while all those not their proponents are, by definition, against them and hence unbelievers. In such a divided world, it becomes highly precarious for the individuals who find themselves in the ‘grey area’ in terms of ideology- who are neither here nor there on the spectrum of extremism. This is the reasoning behind IS’s egregious acts of terror and the sheer sense of brutality with which they carry out their brand of Islam. This extremism further strengthens the innate sense of loyalty IS followers hold towards their aims and further tends to alienate the ‘other’- the enemies of the IS.
This clear schism between the brand of followers who adhere to the IS’s ideology and those who oppose it is essential to the existence of the IS and helps in enhancing its support and increasing its control. This line of argument again tends to delineate why the IS has increasingly been resorting to execrable acts of violence that tend to strike at the most sentimental chord in its enemies’ hearts- the Paris attack that focused on a public space where youngsters were mostly to be found serves as a case in point.
Trump’s vitriol and the increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric emerging in the west might seem natural, yet deplorable, in the wake of a rising IS push, but this discourse will only add fuel to the fire and further perpetuate the ‘us against them’ mentality the IS clings onto. By alienating Muslims and disowning their American heritage, Trump et al, by failing to differentiate between IS sympathizers and average peaceful Muslims, are in effect reinforcing the chasm that the IS claims exists between its members and all those who oppose it. The string of recent attacks carried out by the IS in the west can thus be seen as a success for the terror group since they have given way to a rhetoric that is feeding the IS and its hardline ideology. Mr. Trump must, therefore, choose his words carefully as the end goal he claims to accomplish will only lead to further radicalization and a backlash on nations with far less stringent border controls, like France. As greater western based Muslims go to Syria and Iraq to fight for the IS, they will come back to their countries where anti-Muslim rhetoric and isolation from society will greet them-perpetuating their feelings of hatred against the ‘infidel’ west and making these nations all the more susceptible to attacks from radicals.
Several other western leaders have shown greater maturity and responsibility in the wake of the attacks that have shaken western civilisation, perhaps out of fear of augmenting the IS’s myopic, Manichean worldview. US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have been quick to highlight that the IS strand of Islam runs counter to Islam’s peace loving beliefs and there is a stark contrast between peaceful Muslims who contribute positively to western society and those who claim to uphold IS ideology. These words are spoken to reach out to the Muslims who are just as nonplussed in reaction to the terror attacks as their non-Muslim countrymen and to give them a sense of belonging at a time when the IS ideology looks greatly appealing to an increasingly marginalised number of Muslims. Pages in history books are lined with examples of radical groups feeding on mutual hatred and ostracising minorities. Mr. Trump, who claims to champion the American way of life and the security of the United States, would do well to learn from these ineluctable lessons of history and not indulge in politics of hate.