By Rukmini Callimachi
April 4, 2017
Although members and supporters of the Islamic State have frequently commented on President Trump and his policies, analysts have been puzzled by the terrorist group’s official silence about him. Mr. Trump had not been mentioned in any of the group’s official media — all frequent venues for criticism or taunting of former President Barack Obama and other world leaders.
More than two months after Mr. Trump was sworn in as president, the Islamic State’s spokesman on Tuesday released the group’s first official statement on him, in an audio recording calling him an “idiot” and deriding his attacks on Muslims, among other claims.
Even then, Mr. Trump was only indirectly insulted rather than called out by name.
“America, you have drowned and there is no saviour; you have become prey for the soldiers of the caliphate in every part of the Earth; you are bankrupt, and the signs of your demise are evident to every eye,” the spokesman said, according to a translation by Reuters. “There is no more evidence than the fact that you are being run by an idiot who does not know what Syria or Iraq or Islam is.”
Some terrorism experts have called some of Mr. Trump’s statements and policies — particularly his ban on visas for people from a selection of predominantly Muslim countries — a potential boon to propaganda by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The group has long asserted that Muslims are victims of discrimination and abuse in the West, and supporters and members of the Islamic State have seized on some of Mr. Trump’s statements as evidence of hostility toward Muslims.
“I ask Allah to deliver America to Trump,” one supporter of the Islamic State said during the presidential campaign in a Telegram post archived by Mara Revkin, a resident fellow at the Abdallah S. Kamel Centre for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School.
During the Mosul offensive, a civilian trapped in an area of the city under Islamic State control told The New York Times by telephone that the group’s fighters on his street were jokingly calling Mr. Trump’s executive travel order “a blessed ban.”
Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London, has interviewed supporters of the Islamic State regarding this disconnect.
“The longer-term goal of ISIS is to let the United States eat itself from the inside — just let it happen,” he said.
By contrast, Mr. Obama was frequently named in Islamic State publications and statements.
Mr. Amarasingam argued that was because the group saw Mr. Obama’s relatively better image in the Muslim world as more troubling.
“They assumed that with him,” he said, referring to the Islamic State’s views on Mr. Obama, “you need to tease out those subtleties. ‘He calls Muslims part of American family, but he doesn’t really believe that.’ Whereas with Trump, he openly declared Islam hates us. There are no subtleties to unmask.”
The new recording by Abu Hassan, the Islamic State’s spokesman, is only the second one publicly released. The first was four months ago.
He is considered to be a little-known figure who moved into the post after the group’s long-serving spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, was killed last year in an airstrike.
The speech makes references to current events, including the ongoing offensive in Mosul. In closing, Abu Hassan appears to also make a reference to the recent bombing in St. Petersburg, calling on supporters, including in Russia, to rise up.
“O monotheists in America, Europe and Russia! O supporters of the caliphate; you who have listened to the call to fight!” he said, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group. “You are today a knife in the backs of the polytheists, so roll up your sleeves.”
Reporting was contributed by Liam Stack and Yousur al-Hlou in New York, Hwaida Saad in Beirut, Omar al-Jawoshy in Baghdad, and an employee of the New York Times in Mosul, Iraq.