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Fact-check: Have pro-Palestine protesters been spotted brandishing Islamic State flags in Europe?

The flags criticised are not the ones of the Islamic State (IS)
The flags criticised are not the ones of the Islamic State (IS) Copyright Joerg Carstensen/(c) Copyright 2023, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten
Copyright Joerg Carstensen/(c) Copyright 2023, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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Some social media users are accusing pro-Palestine demonstrators of sympathising with the terrorist group Islamic State (IS). However, most of these flags represent the Shahada, a declaration of faith in Islam.

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Over the past couple of weeks, pro-Palestine protestors have flooded the streets of major European capitals, many of them carrying banners and flags. 

But one flag in particular stood out more than the others. Some social media users were shocked to see protestors waving a blag flag with white text in Arabic written on it. 

"Remind me again why nobody is concerned that ISIS flags are being waved in European capitals? This is Denmark," tweeted Aviva Klompas, former speechwriter and adviser for Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

That’s because they believe it represents the flag of the terrorist organisation -- Islamic State (IS).

The Islamic State, also known as Da'ish or ISIL, is a violent and extremist Islamic terrorist group. At its peak in 2014, the group controlled large territories in Syria and northern Iraq.

It became notorious for its brutality, including mass killings, abductions, beheadings, and orchestrating terrorist attacks.

Last month, the group claimed responsibility for a deadly terror attack, which claimed the lives of two Swedish football fans in Brussels. 

A flag representing the Shahada

However, the flag of the Islamic State is not the same as the flag seen in the video above. 

The text written in white on these flags is called the Shahada or the Islamic declaration of faith in one God and His messenger.

In English, the sentence translates to: "There is no god other than God and Mohammed his prophet."

It is considered the most sacred statement in Islam and is seen as the first of the five pillars of the religion. 

The flag of the Islamic State is different. It contains only the beginning of this declaration of faith and is written in a more handwritten and rougher style. 

The lower part of the IS flag contains a white disc called the seal of Muhammad. 

According to Wassim Nasr, an expert on jihadist movements, the flags seen brandished during these pro-Palestinian protests in Europe are actually “generic Muslim flags, they do not belong to anyone: we can find them in markets, taxis, or houses in Muslim countries.” 

The shahada is also present on the official flag of Saudi Arabia, meaning it’s not necessarily related to terrorist organisations. 

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After an outcry against a protester in London carrying the same black flag as in the video above, the city’s police reacted by explaining that the “flags in the photo are not of the Islamic State. They represent the Shahada."

The Shahada is frequently used by terrorists

Although the Shahada initially has no political connotation, it has been frequently weaponised by radical Islamist groups, not only IS. 

In an interview with France 24, Wassim Nasr specifies that "the people who brandish these banners do so on purpose, it is a political provocation" which has the effect of confusing the message of support for Palestine.

When it comes to other terrorist groups around the world, the Taliban chose a white flag with a black inscription of the Shahada when it took power over Afghanistan in 1997, according to Mother Jones, an American magazine. 

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Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group in Nigeria known for kidnapping hundreds of young school girls in Chibok in 2014, has a symbol that features a black Islamic flag bearing the shahada on top of an open book and guns.

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