The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
The U.S. presidential inauguration ceremonies for Joe Biden sparked online reactions from jihadis and Islamists. Some used the events to draw attention to the situation in Arab and Islamic countries, posting photographs featuring the religious aspects of the ceremonies to highlight religion and politics in the Islamic world. Others commented on the implications of the new administration's policies for the Middle East or for the jihadi groups. Some simply hurled offensive comments at the U.S. and the new president.
The following is a selection of online reactions published by jihadi and Islamist sources:
A prominent voice among supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS) on Telegram addresses the recent uptick in ISIS activity in Iraq and elsewhere, and suggests that ISIS increase its attacks to make it plain to the U.S. that it will pay a heavy price if it keeps its forces in the region:
"One might ask what is the secret of the return of ISIS attacks and their increased frequency. In practice, the operations have not ceased. However, the escalation of their rate is due to many reasons, among them:
First, [ISIS] managed to overcome the blow of losing its popular fold, and reorganized its ranks and changed its military strategy. We have started to notice the extension of the area where it is present and the escalation of the rate of its activity.
Second, ISIS does not take heed of any international or regional facts or positions. Rather, it operates according to that which serves its short term and long term goals.
Third, Trump withdrew part of his forces [from areas of conflict where ISIS is present] while Biden's inclination is to leave the American forces in place. This will push ISIS to intensify its operations so that the price of leaving the Americans in the region will be high."
A participant in an ISIS chat room expresses similar sentiments: "While a fool like Biden rules America we hope that the lions of the caliphate will use this opportunity with this foolish ruler, and avenge their brothers in Baghuz, Mosul and the other assaults on the Muslims."
A common theme in the discourse of ISIS supporters is that there is no difference between U.S. presidents regarding their enmity to Muslims. A pro-ISIS Telegram channel quoted a statistic published in the British daily The Guardian, regarding U.S. airstrikes when Biden was vice president under Obama, to show that Biden is an enemy of the Muslims: "When Joe Biden was the vice president for President Obama in 2016, the U.S. dropped 26,171 bombs on seven Muslim countries, totaling three bombs per hour. The American bombs were rained on the Muslims in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Pakistan under the pretext of fighting 'terrorism.'"
A pro-ISIS Telegram channel posted an image showing a list of senior officials in the incoming Biden administration who are of Jewish origin, with Israeli flags next to their pictures. Female faces were blurred. It can be assumed that the image was copied from a white supremacist forum or social media outlet.
Another common theme referred to by jihadis is that the new U.S. administration signals an increased tendency toward sexual depravity, especially in light of the appointment of LGBTQ individuals to government posts. One ISIS supporter writes: "The new American government led by the greatest bisexual, Biden, is preparing to spread sexual deviance, prostitution, depravation and whoredom in the world. We say to the dogs of America the apostates among our people: do not become deviants and whores to please America."
A pro-Al-Qaeda Telegram channel operated by disciples of Jordanian Salafi-jihadi cleric Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi posted two comments. The first lambasts Arab leaders for separating Islam from politics: "Joe Biden began the ceremony of his inauguration at St. Matthew's Cathedral. A message to all of his tails, the tyrannical [rulers] of the Arabs: continue your war on the religion of Islam, which you [claim to] belong to, and to fight everyone who thinks of empowering it and making it dominant over [people's] lives! You have nothing to do with our respect for our own religion!"
The second comment refers to Biden's appointee for Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, and lashes out at Arab leaders: "Biden's new transport minister the homosexual Pete Buttigieg arrived with his partner to the inauguration ceremony. You see? These homosexuals rule the world, and the rulers of the Arabs submit to them, in the shadow of the absence of Islam and the rule of the depraved."
An Al-Qaeda supporter writes in a similar vein, commenting on photos from the inauguration ceremonies: "The American president assumes his position from a church, and takes an oath on their holy book. Yet they impose secularism on the lands of the Muslims."
Supporters of HTS and Other Islamists
Reactions from among Islamists associated with the Salafi rebel factions in northern Syria stress that there should be no positive expectations from Biden.
A supporter of Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham writes that ceremonies such as the inauguration are meant to hide the true nature of the U.S.: "All of this cartoon show of Biden's inauguration as the president of America is meant only to dazzle the world and protect America's reputation as an empire that cannot be vanquished. The talk of the nuclear case with a button that can destroy the world carried around by the American president while he's in the bathroom, which is with him when he sleeps, with the colors of the drapes and the type of furniture and the number of rooms in the White House is just a media show like that which always appears in the Hollywood movies, where you have the unbeatable 'American hero' who is also a model of virtue, self-sacrifice and love of good. Whereas, in reality, you find nothing but defeats, theft and sordidness. America, which was defeated in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan fled quickly and left its agents to be slaughtered at the hands of those it fought in order to steal from them... With this clarity, you will find those who believe in America's self-made supremacy and that it built its glory on its own with its cleverness and the supremacy of its people and its country's resources. Anyone who talks positively and rejoiced over Biden's taking charge of the presidency of America, know that he took an oversized dose of stupidity pills..."
On the day of the inauguration a senior Syrian cleric wrote that Biden will disappear just as his predecessors did, and America will collapse: "To those who worship the American idol instead of Allah. We bring you glad tidings of its collapse, and you shall collapse after it. Trump left just as Obama and those before him left, and Biden will leave too. America will fall and collapse just as the empires of Persia and Byzantium fell and collapsed before it... Our media celebrated the inauguration of the American idol, as though he were a dove of peace landing in our country, as though there is no other news in the world aside from the news of America... Be informed: your god will fall and leave you as bewildered orphans. O youth of the [Islamic] nation: prepare yourselves to bear the responsibility and leadership of the world, things are clear today, be prepared for this matter and do not waste the opportunity."
A Syria-based Saudi cleric posted a photo of Biden sitting next to a cross, and comments on the religious aspects of Biden's inauguration: "They have a religious state and we have a secular one! Biden opened his presidency by having his photo taken next to a cross. He then swore on the Bible and then, in the inauguration ceremony, they held a public prayer. He then went to visit a priest. Yet when a Muslim takes pride in his religion, and all the more so if a ruler takes part in some ceremonies even for the sake of appearance, they raise a stir [and say] don't insert religion into politics!"
A Sudanese scholar says that the "romantic" inauguration was merely one face of the U.S., writing: "Today America got over its internal crisis with the appointment of the elected President Biden. This was considered a victory for democracy, freedom and justice. However, after this romantic scene which intoxicated some in our Arab world, we will pass on to [America's] other face, to the global terrorism this same democratic state wages against others under the pretext of interests."