Terrorism in the Time of Trump - By Greer Clem
Today's topic is not an uplifting one, but one I feel compelled to discuss, if only for myself. After the recent terrorist attack in Manchester, I wanted to write something. I sat down and I tried but I felt that nothing I could say or express would make any difference. The world already knows on days like that what we need; community, support, resilience. But over the past few days I've been thinking more and more about what enables terrorism to take root and it occurred to me that this topic, one that has grown more and more prominent in the post 9/11 world, will look very different under the Trump presidency. So I want to address isolationism under the Trump administration and why combating the isolation of immigrants in western countries is of the utmost importance.
The Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, was born in the UK to Libyan immigrants who sought refuge from the Gaddafi regime. Abedi attended school in Manchester and, according to various neighbor accounts, was friendly enough and appeared to be just a normal young man. That was until the past several months, in particular the last several weeks during which he traveled to Libya where his family had relocated. French and British intelligence has reported that he likely visited Syria in the past several weeks and took this trip as part of a radicalization that began about a year ago. Abedi's brother has also been arrested and has confirmed that he and his brother shared similar ideology. According to Abedi's sister, possible reasoning behind the attack could be revenge for US bombings in Syria. She is quoted as saying, "I think he saw children - Muslim children- dying everywhere, and he wanted revenge."
Today, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, refused to reinstate Trump's travel ban, arguing that the ban was based on religious discrimination. I want to explicitly state that this was the right decision. Religious and racial discrimination should never be tolerated, much less encouraged, especially in America where each and every one of us is descended from immigrants. But I think it is important to note that this decision will not be universally popular. When we are scared, we are often scared of the unknown and of things that are different to us. Islam is a minority religion in America. There are plenty of people who have never met a Muslim person, who have no understanding of that faith in general. And so when we get scared, we want to shut out everything that is unfamiliar to us, hoping that that will make us safer.
Not only is Trump preying upon this way of thinking, but it is ISIS's strongest tool for recruitment. Seeds of intolerance planted within western nations are watered by extremists for their own benefit. It is our job, the job of the American people, not to let Trump's ideologies further nourish this relationship.
Now, there are many layers to this problem and many inherent controversies. For instance, just because ISIS prayed on an isolated young man does not mean the community of Manchester created this isolation. I want to make it clear that no community who is the victim of such violence should ever feel they themselves are responsible. ISIS targeted a young man looking for his place in the world who knew he was a minority. They preyed upon him as a person, someone who was susceptible and weak and who wanted authority, and they created a situation which made him feel powerful. They took the country that had opened it's doors to his family and they painted it as his enemy. These are the exact circumstances under which the Westminster Bridge Shooter and the Boston Bombers were recruited.
As citizens of the Western nations where these attacks occurred, we than are left wondering what we were to have done. Should we close our doors to those who need help and who maybe are different from ourselves? Before, that answer has never been legitimized, but it is exactly this fear that Trump has taken advantage of. I don't doubt that in his limited mental capacity Trump thinks he is trying to stop terrorist threats. But a man with no knowledge of the roots of a problem cannot pose the right solution. Trump's travel ban is more tied to his own interests and phobias and the desires of a largely white, male, Christian cabinet with no concept of tolerance.
The thought that has stuck with me in the wake of the Manchester attacks is that America is now more susceptible to intolerance and isolationism than at any point over the last eight years. The face of our nation now advocates nationalist policies and has attempted to institute his Islamaphobic travel plan several times. This not only leaves our citizens, in particular our minorities, susceptible to threats and intolerance in their own home, it weakens the international community in our fight against ISIS and extremist ideologies. And you better believe ISIS is well aware of this fact.
The point of this article, really the point of any discussion at all, is simply to have it. We need to be talking about these issues and concerns, even though it may be uncomfortable or unfamiliar. I am speaking to this particular incident and the current political climate in America, but that does not mean these are the only factors in this discussion. I would never claim that I fully understand what it feels like to be discriminated based on religion or race; I have been fortunate in that sense. But I do want to understand these sentiments, because if it was populism Donald Trump wanted, it's populism he's going to get, and I speak for the people when I say that tolerance will always triumph over fear, even if the man in the White House is too afraid to say so himself.