Tag Archives: al qaeda

A Few Thoughts on Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

As anyone paying attention will know, the election of Donald J. Trump to the U.S. Presidency has roused the political left to an extraordinary degree. The most recent hot-button issue, at least until Trump announces his pick for the Supreme Court this evening, has been his executive order to ban travelers to the United States from Syria and pause (for 120 days) travelers from six other majority Muslim countries, including Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen. The order seems to target travelers from those countries seen as most problematic from the perspective of the U.S. government (e.g. civil wars, high levels of terrorism or Islamic extremism, Iran’s quarrels with the U.S., etc…).

Regardless of what partisans say on either side of the political isle, it’s a complex issue that needs serious consideration. Indeed, many are still debating the meaning and extent of the order.

I only have a few thoughts that I would like to lay out here, and realize this is by no means exhaustive analysis as far more has been written about the topic by others. Continue reading

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The 99.9% Myth

A number of well-intentioned people, including President Barack Obama, have claimed that the Islamic State and other militant radical groups have practically no support among Muslims. Indeed, in a televised interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, in response to a question of why his administration avoided using the phrase, “Islamic terrorists,” the president responded the vast overwhelming majority of Muslims reject radical interpretations of Islam, distinguishing between radical extremists and the remaining “99.9 percent of Muslims.”

I understand the desire to believe this and the optimism expressed in such a claim, but what is the evidence for it? Continue reading

The Online War Between ISIS and the U.S. State Department

The Online War Between ISIS and the U.S. State Department

There are an estimated 2000 westerners who have gone to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq and an additional 13,000 non-western foreign fighters who have done the same. ISIS has showcased some of them, such as the British jihadist known as “Jihadi John,” through appearances in the gruesome beheading videos posted on Youtube. (See- Who is Jihadi John?- In 60 Seconds– U.K. Telegraph) Yet this number of 15,000 foreign fighters, as significant as it is, does not give the full picture of their level of popular support, either in the west or in other regions of the world.

The 15,000 figure represents only those who have successfully overcome the various hurdles necessary for their supporters to make it to Iraq or Syria, which are substantial (e.g. the threat of arrest in their home countries, coordinating with those who would receive them in Syria or Iraq, financing their trips, etc…). There are certainly many others who can’t overcome these hurdles, but otherwise seem very sympathetic to ISIS. Indeed, those thousands of foreign fighters who have joined ISIS were often recruited by a network of militants operating in their home countries with support from radical mosques and their members. These are people who can’t or won’t go to fight in Syria or Iraq themselves, but are willing to encourage and support others who will.

Perhaps of even greater significance, based on the efforts of the U.S. State Department, has been the role of social media in recruiting foreign fighters and winning support abroad, particularly in the West. While overall support for ISIS among Muslims in the West remains very low, the U.S. Government has shown considerable concern over the potential effect of social media in winning greater sympathy and support among western Muslims. In fact the State Department now has a growing social media division formed in 2010 to counter messaging from Al Qaeda, ISIS, and its affiliated groups. The unit engages in online forums in English, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi and Somali. They post on Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook, seeking to question claims made by extremist groups and highlight their brutality. Continue reading