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RELEASE: ISIS Needs the West to Alienate Its Muslim Populations, Current Rhetoric Does Exactly That

Washington, D.C. — The attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, over the past few weeks have brought an undercurrent of anti-Muslim sentiment in Western culture to the surface. This rhetoric, especially from public figures, directly advances ISIS’s stated goal of pitting Western nations against their own Muslim populations. The Center for American Progress released a report analyzing how ISIS uses this kind of anti-Muslim sentiment to advance its own aims and what will happen if the United States fails to reacquire its basic American values.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has long been at the fringes of American society. Although it is well financed—as uncovered in two in-depth reports released by CAP over the past few years—it has rarely found its way into the mainstream discourse in such an immediate and vitriolic way as it has since the Paris attacks. ISIS’s stated goal is to use anti-Muslim sentiment in the West to increase recruitment and bring about a so-called clash of civilizations. The rhetoric and sentiment shown since the Paris attacks only aids this effort.

“ISIS is driven by a barbaric, ultraviolent ideology that goes against the values of the rest of the world and especially of the millions of peaceful Muslims worldwide,” said Ken Gude, CAP Senior Fellow and author of the report. “Nothing Western nations do will change its desire to bring about a clash of civilizations. We are, however, in complete control of how we react to it. This spasm of anti-Muslim sentiment has done nothing but advance ISIS’s goal of dividing those who stand against it. ISIS needs an overreaction from us in order to sustain itself. It is explicitly trying to provoke this. The events of the past few weeks have given it exactly what it seeks.”

ISIS has stood out among extremists groups for the deftness with which it uses sophisticated media techniques to spread its message. It is extremely prolific in print and on social media, where it has shown a particularly dangerous aptitude. The anti-Muslim rhetoric used by Western public figures will be used to great effect by ISIS in its campaign to turn Muslims against the West. This could pose a new problem for the United States, where the level of alienation felt by Muslims is currently much lower than that expressed by Muslims living in Europe. If ISIS is able to use this wave of anti-Muslim sentiment to alienate Muslim American populations, it will dramatically increase the potential for a prolonged and bloody conflict and the loss of more innocent lives.

Click here to read the report.

Related resources:

  • Fear, Inc. by Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and Faiz Shakir
    Fear, Inc. 2.0 by Matthew Duss, Yasmine Taeb, Ken Gude, and Ken Sofer

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at  or 202.481.7141.

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