President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as “chief strategist” has sparked a backlash, with critics accusing Trump of elevating an anti-Semite into the halls of power.
What’s received less attention is that Bannon, as executive chairman of Breitbart News, has also broadcast the views of some of America’s leading Islamophobes, including Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Frank Gaffney.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia–alongside a healthy dose of right-wing Zionism–go hand in hand among adherents of the Internet-savvy white nationalist movement that has supported Trump’s rise to power. The choice to bring Bannon into the Oval Office, potentially alongside other anti-Muslim ideologues that have clustered around Trump, portends a dark future for the Muslim American community.
Two days after Donald Trump said the United States had “absolutely no choice” but to close down mosques, candidate Trump appeared on Bannon’s radio show. Bannon asked him about those remarks, and said that what Trump really meant was that New York police needed informants within mosques. Trump replied: “That’s right.” That’s cold comfort for Muslim Americans, who, since September 11, have been targeted by both the FBI and the New York Police Department in their places of worship.
Bannon himself has pushed anti-Muslim sentiment. As Mother Jones reported, he described Islam as a “political ideology” rather than a religion, and likened Sharia law to “Nazism, fascism, and communism.”
When Bannon was actively running Breitbart–he took a leave of absence in August to work on the Trump campaign–anti-Muslim sentiment was a prominent theme on the website.
Pamela Geller, the blogger made famous by her opposition to the Park 51 Islamic center in Manhattan, is a frequent contributor to Breitbart. Her columns on the website include calls for investigations into “foreign funding” of mosques, surveillance of mosques and citizenship loyalty tests for Muslims, who she says should prove they do not support sharia law; screeds on how “Muslim migrants” devastated an Idaho community, and how Muslims brought cockroaches and trashed apartment buildings; and denunciations of the hijab.
Other anti-Muslim articles on Breitbart include criticism of “Muslim rape culture” and why “mass Muslim immigration” has to “stop.”
Bannon is far from the only anti-Muslim ideologue that Trump has elevated. Some of his closest advisers, and potential cabinet picks, frequently indulge in Islamophobia.
Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has advised Trump throughout the campaign. Since leaving his intelligence post, Flynn, thought to be a potential national security adviser in a Trump White House, has said he’s “been at war with Islam, or a component of Islam, for the last decade.”
When Trump called for a shutdown on Muslim immigration to the U.S., he cited the work of the Center for Security Policy, run by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney. Gaffney has long pushed the conspiracy theory that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government, questioned whether President Obama is a citizen, and rails against sharia law’s threat to the U.S. (On Tuesday, it was reported that Gaffney joined Trump’s transition team, though Gaffney and the Trump campaign have denied the report.)
Another Trump adviser, Walid Phares, is tied to a religious militia that committed massacres during the Lebanese Civil War, and has reinvented himself as a national security expert who also rails against sharia law.
Trump’s potential cabinet picks are also known for professing anti-Muslim beliefs. Rudy Giuliani, widely thought to be a favorite for Secretary of State, said he put police officers in mosques when he was mayor of New York. He has mused about putting electronic monitoring tags on people on the terrorist watch list, the majority of whom are Muslim and have committed no crime, and called the proposed Park 51 Islamic center a “desecration.”
Kris Kobach, reportedly under consideration for the attorney general post and currently a member of the Trump transition team, served in the Justice Department under the Bush administration. Kobach told Reuters this week that Trump’s immigration policy group might call for the implementation of a once-active but now discarded program called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which requires the interrogation and fingerprinting of travelers from 25 countries. 24 of those countries were majority-Muslim, and the 25th was North Korea.
A Trump administration could go far beyond just implementing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. His attorney general could ramp up the use of informants in mosques, though that’s already a problem for Muslim communities. The attorney general could also step back from challenging local decisions to stop the construction of mosques, which the Obama Justice Department has taken a lead role in. Trump could sign a pending Senate bill that would label the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization”–a move that could lead to the scrutiny, and potential shutdown, of Muslim civil rights groups that anti-Muslim activists claim are “fronts” for the Islamist group. And Trump could ban immigration from Muslim-majority nations.
The appointment of Bannon has been denounced by Muslim groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations. But if Trump’s choice of advisers is any indication, groups like CAIR, and the larger Muslim-American community, are going to have a lot more problems than Steve Bannon.