When he was merely a presidential candidate, Donald Trump infamously suggested banning immigration from Muslim countries and requiring Muslims to wear identifying garments. Now that he's president-elect, it looks like he is surrounding himself with exactly the kinds of advisors that advocates of civil liberties most feared.
As Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, Trump has the support of people like Lt. General Jerry Boykin, one of the founders of the Delta Force and a military leader whose endorsement Trump openly touted back in September. During an interview on a podcast called "Secure Freedom Radio," Boykin suggested that President Trump will purge "people inside the government that are known to have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and its front groups and its entities here in America."
This wasn't an idle comment. As Bloomberg also reported, in one of Trump's main policy speeches in August, he openly argued that America was engaged in an ideological war against political Islam, one that would require the government to screen immigrants for individuals who might "believe that Sharia law should supplant American law." This Islamophobic mentality is shared by Trump advisers like retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump's pick for national security advisor, who has even argued that jihadists can be tied to China and North Korea; Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick for Attorney General, who has advocated a Cold War-esque policy of "containment" to fight jihadism; and retired Gen. James Mattis, widely considered to be a front-runner for secretary of defense, who in 2015 told the Heritage Foundation that ISIS's geopolitical strategy was based on the assumption that "the Americans will not ask one fundamental question . . . Is political Islam in the best interest of the United States?"
Perhaps the most problematic of Trump's potential advisers is Frank Gaffney (host of the "Secure Freedom Radio" podcast in which Boykin made his ominous prediction), a former Pentagon official during the 1980s who is currently advising the Trump transition team. Gaffney's focus is on the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization founded in Egypt in 1928 that took over that country during the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 (it has since then been overthrown and left in disarray).
In addition to questioning whether Barack Obama was "America's first Muslim president," Gaffney has been infamous for insisting that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the American government on multiple levels. To combat this unproved threat, he has called for the Muslim Brotherhood to be labeled as a terrorist group so that the government could be empowered to investigate a large number of Muslim nonprofit organizations, based on even the allegation of a tenuous relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaffney has even repeatedly opposed nominating American Muslims to local and state-level government positions by accusing them of ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“I believe that Muslim civil liberties could potentially, with this policy move, be wiped off the map,” said Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry, in an interview with BuzzFeed. “It sounds like hyperbole, but I mean that very seriously.”
The BuzzFeed article also pointed out that, while Hamas and al-Qaeda may have evolved from the Muslim Brotherhood, the vast majority of counterterrorism experts do not believe that it should be designated as a terrorist organization itself by the State Department.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is a totalitarian organization that very explicitly seeks local, regional, and global power,” Eric Trager, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of Arab Fall, told BuzzFeed. “However, a group that could not even achieve this goal in Egypt, where it is from, poses very little risk to a country like the United States.”
J.M. Berger, a counterterrorism analyst at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, was even more blunt in his analysis.
“Some U.S. Muslim organizations were founded by or with the assistance of the Muslim Brotherhood decades ago, but for most of them, these links are ancient history,” Berger told BuzzFeed, before adding that “no major American Muslim organization is today affiliated with the group.”
In 2013, Salon reported that Gaffney's think tank the Center for Security Policy counts among its donors some of the wealthiest and most powerful companies in the American military-industrial complex, including Boeing, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.