The rise of radical Islamic Terror in the Middle East and the resultant refugee crisis from Syria and Iraq has led to a backlash in EU and the US. Though the refugee crisis has primarily affected the European nations, its effects can be felt across the Atlantic where masses in a popular wave have made Donald J Trump the 45th President of The United States of America. Donald Trump, as we have described in our earlier post on the US Polls, rode a popular anti-establishment wave sweeping across the US heartland on issues like trade, jobs, healthcare, radical Islamic terror etc. But as expounded earlier, the most striking undercurrent in President Trump’s victory has been the role played by the Religious Right in asserting the native Catholic culture as the pride of America’s values opposing the liberal viewpoints on Planned Parenthood, LGTB rights and affordable healthcare. These values have been espoused by the Catholic Church across the world, more so in the wake of chaos in the Middle East where the Pope has even advocated a United Christendom in defending the Christian values.
In his meeting with the Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch Kirill in Cuba on 13th February 2016, the Pope in a joint declaration called for uniting the Catholics and the Orthodox Christians in Russia. The Pope even echoed a similar message in his historic address to the US Congress in September 2015 where he called on America, “the land of Freedom to stand and defend its values and faith”. On the other side the Russian Deputy PM Igor Shuvalov in a recent statement remarked, “The rivalry of the U.S. and Russia it is just like two top sportsmen in the same team … we belong to the same high civilization … but we are competing all the time”. The Rise of the Religious Right in America under Donald Trump during recent elections has further accentuated the prospect of a Clash of Civilizations of United Christendom (as espoused by Pope and Patriarch) against the Radical Islamic ideology which is creating global mayhem and chaos. This backlash in the Western Christian world has already led to the rise of Right-wing nationalism in countries like the UK, France, and Italy and across the Atlantic in the US. Though there has been a general trend since the end of the last decade leading to the rise of Right-wing nationalism across the world from Shinzo Abe in Japan, Narendra Modi in India, The Conservatives in the UK to Marine Le Pen in the recent leads in the French Presidential polls; the rise of the Religious Right in the US i.e. an alliance of Conservative Catholics and Evangelicals espousing the Christian values has been more evident and will have great ramifications for the world in the times to come.
The rise of the Religious Right in the US has twin contexts- one which focuses more outwards of making peace with Russia even if temporarily; in an effort towards United Christendom to defend against the rise of radical Islamic terrorism which is considered a civilizational threat by the Conservatives in America. The Conservatives who once opposed the Soviet Union and its Communist rule as a symbol of Atheism now view Vladimir Putin’s Russia as one on Christianity’s frontline against a new civilizational enemy i.e. Radical Islam. The same message has been echoed by Donald Trump’s NSA Michael Flynn, in an interview dated 15th August 2016 where he stated, “We beat Hitler because of our relationship with the Russians, so anybody that looks on it as anything but a relationship that’s required for mutual supporting interests, including ISIS, … that’s really where I’m at with Russia. We have a problem with radical Islamism and I actually think that we could work together with them against this enemy”.
In a 2014 speech to the Human Dignity Institute at the Vatican, Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist in the White House, characterised the current war against “jihadist Islamic fascism” as the latest stage of an existential, centuries-old struggle between the Judeo-Christian West and the Islamic world. He further argued that “we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s [Putin] talking about as far as traditionalism goes—particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism.” Unlike the globalists of the European Union, Bannon argues, Putin believes in “sovereignty,” which makes him a valuable ally in America’s civilizational fight. Even President Donald Trump maintained a similar message as the core point of his inaugural speech and address to CIA.
Donald Trump has a huge US Christian Conservative base which was instrumental in powering him to the highest office in the United States. It includes some big names, like Conservative Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, National Organization for Marriage leader Brian Brown, and American Family Association spokesperson, Bryan Fischer. This alliance of Conservative Christians and Evangelicals also has a soft corner for Vladimir Putin’s Russia which has been echoing against Radical Islam and LGTB Rights. Putin’s campaigns in Syria & Chechnya have also bolstered his image as one standing up to the Radical Jihadists while his anti-gay propaganda has struck a chord with the Religious Right in the US. It is indeed an irony that the Religious Right considers Russia as a defender of the Christian faith as Russia under Putin has passed an anti-terrorism law in July 2016 banning religious gatherings at home, Evangelism and Missionary activities!
While this is the first context of United Christendom and the effects of the Religious Right in the US, the second is domestic in nature and aims at establishing a Kingdom of God, which Trump’s Education Secretary and Billionaire Betsy DeVos (who is linked to the Amway Corporation) has advocated. Betsy DeVos has for long been advocating the privatisation of American schools and the education system, softening the difference between the Church and the State, and imparting Christian values to students in schools with the active help of Churches. Betsy Devos has even stated in an interview in 2001 while promoting Christian Religious Schools that, “Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom”. Dick DeVos, of the Devos foundation and Betsy’s husband, has remarked, “As we look at many communities in our country, the church has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity…[I]t is certainly our hope that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education.” Moreover, DeVos’s father, the co-founder of Amway has authored a book – Believe in which he states, “The real strength of America is its religious tradition. Too many people today are willing to act as if God had nothing whatsoever to do with it. … This country was built on a religious heritage, and we’d better get back to it. We had better start telling people that faith in God is the real strength of America!” DeVos has also funded a guidebook instructing Conservative Christians on how to win elections and help “America become as it was when first founded—a ‘Christian Republic’.” Betsy is the sister of Erik Prince, the founder of the world’s largest mercenary company Blackwater that is under investigation by the Justice Department. Prince is also a fundamentalist Christian.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank has a strong influence on Trump’s transition team which is led by Vice President Mike Pence, a devoted evangelist. During a public gathering in 2016, Pence stated, “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican,” Pence said. “In that order.” The Heritage Foundation has a long history of advising conservative presidents. Heritage released its “Blueprint for a New Administration” days before the election and some of its top names are volunteering at high level within the transition team. Heritage scholars are advising on foreign policy, domestic policy, budget, and administration management. Trump’s agency landing teams so far have 16 members from Heritage or its sister concerns. The Hill reported that Trump transition staffers are using the Heritage document as the basis for Trump’s first proposed budget.
The rise of the religious right in the US has been also fueled by the policies of the Obama Administration which was courting radical Islamic organisations like Muslim Brotherhood. Haaretz in June 2009 reported that President Obama met members of Muslim Brotherhood in Washington early that year which coincided with revelations of PSD 11 (Presidential Study Directive-11) which talked about installing Political Islamic (Muslim Brotherhood) governments in Middle Eastern countries in the name of democratic reform. These moves were followed by the events of Arab Spring which lead to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the formation of the first Muslim Brotherhood Government led by Morsi in Egypt which was ultimately replaced by General Sisi a few years later.
The US support of Muslim Brotherhood under the Obama Administration has been further corroborated by 39 pages of declassified documents revealed by Mohamed Mobruk, Egyptian National Security Officer who monitored and recorded conversations between Morsi & CIA and other Brotherhood figures. Mobruk’s revelations were made public by Egyptian Daily and the said documents also formed part of the treason trial of Morsi in Egypt. Mobruk was later assassinated but the 39 page declassified documents reveal that Morsi was facilitating the Brotherhood contact with CIA in orchestrating the Tehrir Square uprising against Hosni Mubarak. The details of conversations of January 2011 & thereafter reveal that Morsi informed the Brotherhood leaders that the he had talked in detail with CIA to overthrow the Mubarak regime and his primary focus was on Islamization of the Egyptian Society and taking control of the Egyptian state. After the Muslim Brotherhood Government of Morsi was overthrown in 2013, Muslim Brotherhood leaders like Abd Elaty used contacts in Turkish intelligence to establish contacts across the Atlantic in Washington DC. This was further solidified with the visit of Muslim Brotherhood leaders to the US State Department in January 2015 on which many US allies in the region like Egypt & Saudi Arabia expressed reservations.
This soft peddling of Obama Administration on radical Islamic organisations was one of the moot points of the Trump campaign during the US Elections who made it very clear that he would ban organisations like Muslim Brotherhood and its front organisations. Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisor Walid Pheres in an interview to an Egyptian Daily in November 2016 stated that Trump would ban Muslim Brotherhood in the US and its offshoots organisations like Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). It is worth noting that the FBI in 2008 had already issued an alert for CAIR and other affiliated organisations which have been accused of abetting Radical Islamic teachings and hosting leaders of banned terrorist organisations like Hamas in the US. The Republicans in the US Congress have also brought about a bill H.R.3892 – Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015 to designate Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation and ban all its fronts like CAIR & ISNA while detailing its extremist activities across the world. The bill was introduced on 11th November 2015 and is pending clearance of the US Congress.
Adding to the chorus are the Conservative faith leaders who days before Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 urged him to name Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in countering Radical Islam. Amid this chorus against Radical Islamic groups by Conservative Christian groups Linda Sarsour, the head of the Arab American Association of New York and an Obama White House “Champion of Change” has been at the forefront of the Women’s Marches against President Trump. Sarsour has close ties to CAIR (a participant in the Women’s March) and has also acknowledged having cousins with ties to Hamas for which they have spent jail time in Israel. For the Islamist organisations that have enjoyed a comfortable run in the previous administration, the March was also about showing their power to the incoming administration who has declared war on them. The above facts strengthen the notion that the Religious Right in the US is aiming to push back against the rise of Radical Islamic Groups, Reinstate religious Christian values in US Education system and for this they are even willing to work with an adversary like Russia in defending the Christian Faith.
The rise of the Religious Right in the US and its pushback against Radical Islamic groups will have huge global ramifications. While it will present avenues for the US & Russia to cooperate against groups like ISIS; any move banning Muslim Brotherhood and its front organisations will put it in direct confrontation with Turkey who has been the prime backer of Muslim Brotherhood group and its ideology. This prospective ban in conjunction with the US housing of Turkish Cleric Gullen could ultimately lead to Turkey’s break from NATO, charting its own course in the region to reestablish its old Ottoman glory. The rise of Religious Right in the US also has serious ramifications for India which has been already grappling with Christian Terror groups in its North-East and facing extensive Evangelist and Missionary activities. On one side the US Deep State could further the soul harvesting agenda of Missionaries & the Church in India while on the other hand, India’s close friend Russia is now openly backing Taliban and the Sino-Pak project of CPEC adding to its concerns. India will have to deal with a more aggressive Church and Missionary activity as well as the prospect of the rise in Jihadist violence as the US slowly withdraws itself from global leadership in the region. The Rise of the Religious Right under the Trump Administration will have huge consequences in the world including the rise of Christian Militias which could stir up a spectre of the Clash of Civilisations as we would discuss in future posts.