With the newly elected president’s crackdown on Muslims, Donald Trump follows in European radical right-wing populists’ footsteps by singling out Muslims, organizing surveillance programs, and explicitly discriminating against them in their religious freedom. Most of these leaders are not in power, but that does not mean that Muslims do not undergo authoritarian regulations. They certainly do because many ruling governments of so-called centrist parties feel hunted by the rising popular support of the far right. But when politicians pursue more stringent policies, they at least try to frame their restrictions as not overtly anti-democratic.
As the conversation between Trump and Rudy Giuliani reveals, even Trump attempted to present his “Muslim Ban’” as constitutional and, hence, sought the assistance of former attorney Giuliani in this matter. But the fact that the only hint to his foreign policy strategy in his inaugural address included his plan to “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth” clearly indicates that he breaks with President Obama’s discourse, who tried to overcome the narrative of a clash of civilizations between the white Christian West and Islam in his famous June 2009 Cairo speech.
This is not the only indication of the new administration’s attempt to target Muslims. Steve Bannon as a renowned anti-Muslim ideologue is just one of the highest people in the hierarchy that supports this argument. In addition, Republican senators Ted Cruz and Mario Diaz-Balart introduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act this January. Cruz argued it was designed to protect against the “violent jihad” carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in the United States and the rest of the world. Obviously, this initiative not only has implications on foreign policy, but—I suggest—it also primarily targets American Muslim institutions. While many terrorism and security scholars would not connect the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and most of its offspring to violence, this law aims to silence dissent from Muslim civil society, especially the most vocal voices, such as the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR). This would bring enormous harm to groups that struggle to advocate for Muslim minorities in the United States. No wonder many commentators were reminded of McCarthyism and the witch-hunting of those alleged to be communists. An ongoing securitization of Islam makes it easy for policymakers to argue these policies—even more so in a country where majority of the GOP electorate believes the former president Obama is Muslim.
The short-term consequences of these initiatives will be celebrated by ISIL/DAESH, who preach the clash of civilizations theory, but wish for the victory not of the West, but of the East. In addition, more extremist ideologies, which challenge moderate Islamic and Islamist movements, will only gain more traction to refute the latter’s idea about the West and its democratic beliefs. Most importantly, these initiatives would target Muslims and civil society groups that challenge the administration’s current politics. While Trump tries to “make America great again,” which implies also making it more secure, these initiatives will only nurse wrath and hate toward the United States and undermine the First Amendment, which protects people equally, regardless of their religious belief and affiliation.