News & Politics

The Myth That Trump's Anti-Islam Rhetoric Leads to ISIS Recruitment

The Myth That Trump's Anti-Islam Rhetoric Leads to ISIS Recruitment
(AP Photo/Mic Smith, File)

Ever since 9/11, liberals have advanced the narrative that we can’t be beastly toward Muslims because it “plays into their hands” and our actions are used as “evidence” to recruit jihadists. Whether it’s the existence of the prison camp at Guantanamo or Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and exaggerations about Muslims, the answer is the same: doing or saying anything bad about Islam makes our job of defeating the terrorists that much harder.

The narrative has the benefit of being impossible to prove. But that hasn’t stopped liberals from using the bogus narrative to hammer conservatives.

It also reveals a stilted worldview where self-preservation actually takes second place to not offending Muslims. Since Muslims would appear to be the easiest people on the planet to “offend,” it pretty much cuts off all criticism of Islam and the actions of some of its adherents.

At the Democratic debate on Saturday night, Hillary Clinton went beyond suggesting that Donald Trump’s rhetoric might lead to an increase in terrorist recruitment. She said flat out that Trump’s statements about Muslims were being used directly to recruit terrorists.

The newest criticism? Videos of Trump talking about Muslims are being used by ISIS to recruit fighters. It was a step by Clinton farther than other critics of the Republican frontrunner, who have previously said Trump’s remarks have the potential to recruit ISIS fighters.

“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” Clinton said. “They are going to people, showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”

It’s not as simple a statement to parse as it may appear. ISIS communicates in a variety of ways, using multiple social media accounts and publications through its networks around the world.  But it also depends on supporters to take to Twitter and social media to spread their message – meaning official and supporter message may be a distinction without much of a difference.

Asked to provide evidence of her claim, Clinton’s campaign pointed to social media experts who have said ISIS supporters are frequently using Trump’s remarks to argue Americans hate Muslims. They also pointed to social media posts by ISIS supporters.

But so far, according to a social media expert I spoke to, no one has been able to point to use of Trump videos on official ISIS accounts.

“We’ve seen a number of ISIS sympathizers online cite Mr. Trump’s recent comments but to my knowledge, we haven’t seen it in the official ISIS propaganda channels,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security.

Danny Vinik of Politico also found the claim to be bogus:

Hillary Clinton claimed that Donald Trump “is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.” A lot of people have argued that Trump’s rhetoric has aided ISIL, from terror experts to Whoopi Goldberg. But as far as we and other outlets can tell, there’s no evidence that radical jihadists are actually showing videos of Trump as a recruitment tool. We’ve asked the Clinton campaign for any evidence they have of this and will report back what they say.

I have always wondered if the success of a terrorist group — al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack or ISIS winning territory — was a far more effective recruiting tool than getting Muslims angry by the U.S. waterboarding a few terrorists or some bigot spouting exaggerated claims about Islam. It’s at least equally logical to state that Paris and San Bernardino will inspire more terrorist attacks and recruit more jihadists than anything Donald Trump has said.

Neither narrative is provable. But it just goes to show that Clinton has upped the ante and will now blame Trump and Republicans directly for “playing into the hands” of terrorists.