The Perfect Gift for the Jihadi on Your Shopping List
ISIS—the Islamic militant group that’s on a scorched-earth march to overthrow the government of Iraq—is known for being as savvy on social media as it is deadly on the ground. The group’s online marketing had helped turn ISIS into a global brand, and now the terrorist network even boasts its own clothing line.
That’s right: Online retailers have begun selling ISIS-themed T-shirts and hoodies. If you’d like a unique cover-up for the beach this summer and don’t mind a lot of black, you can purchase a sweatshirt with the group’s full name—Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—written in bleak white lettering. Another design features the group’s acronym, ISIS, surrounded by automatic weapons and a map of the world, in an apparent reference to the group’s global ambition.
The T-shirts, which are being offered by Indonesia-based websites, sell for $7 to $13 and have apparently been on the market for several months, according to Facebook posts from Indonesian vendors. The swag began gaining ground on social media this month after ISIS’ string of brutal victories in Iraq.
Zirah Moslem, a company that calls itself purveyors of “Islamic style,” offers merchandise promoting various terrorist causes, including ISIS. The company’s website, which has more than 9,000 likes on Facebook, says its T-shirts feature “a design that is…always up to date,” which apparently means having a group of kaffiyeh-wearing jihadis pose as if they’re promoting a Hollywood blockbuster. (Update, 6/23: The Facebook pages for Zirah Moslem and the other sites hawking jihadi merch have now been removed from the social network for violating terms and conditions. Their website is still online.)
Though ISIS is based in the Middle East, it has attracted followers among militant-minded members of Indonesia’s large Sunni Muslim population. (ISIS is a Sunni group.) Jakarta-based terrorism expert Solahudin (Indonesians often go by one name) tells Vocativ via email that Indonesian jihadis believe the Islamic equivalent of Armageddon will happen in Syria, where ISIS has been fighting the Assad regime. “Various hadith [sayings of the Prophet Muhammad] predict an apocalyptic war, with one hadith signaling that it will start in Syria,” says Solahudin, who adds that jihadis think every Muslim should be involved in the fight there. At least 50 jihadi fighters traveled from Indonesia to Syria earlier this year, according to Indonesia’s counterterrorism agency, though it isn’t known if those fighters joined ISIS or other insurgents.
Militant fundamentalists in Indonesia also support ISIS for other, equally ominous reasons. “They see that ISIS has succeeded in some areas in Syria and Iraq,” says Solahudin. “They’ve already declared an Islamic state there. A caliphate is the ultimate goal for every jihadist in Indonesia.”
Indonesian retailers in particular can fill the demand for terrorism-themed swag because it’s not illegal in the South Asian country to join or promote a jihadi organization. In February, Indonesian ISIS supporters actually held a fundraiser for the group in Jakarta, collecting more than $3,500.
It’s unclear whether money from the clothing sales goes to ISIS. None of the websites or Facebook pages provide such information, though the Zirah Moslem site says 100 percent of the money earned from its “Pray for Gaza” T-shirts gets donated to the “Gaza community in Palestine.” (Calls to Zirah Moslem were not returned before this article was posted.)
ISIS supporters aren’t the first to sell jihadi-branded merchandise. Al Qaeda has long recruited followers with swag, and the organization’s T-shirts still pop up in Syria, where until last month, Qaeda’s splinter group, the Al Nusra Front, had been fighting its rival, ISIS.
Noam Binshtok contributed deep web reporting to this article.