The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is a murderous, intolerant and ruthless terrorist organization. It adheres to a medieval code of conduct, and beheadings appear to be the benchmark of its public policy.
Simply put, ISIS is hardly a beacon of peace and justice in this world. Yet, this hasn't stopped it from criticizing the United States for the racism and injustice exposed by Ferguson.
On Monday night, it was announced that a St. Louis County grand jury had decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown on August 9. This sparked both peaceful protests as well as violence, riots and looting in Ferguson.
It also led to nationwide protests against a decision that many view as completely and utterly unjust. Not to mention, it's apparent that many Americans are fed up with the criminal justice system in general, particularly as it relates to racism and police brutality.
Additionally, the Ferguson decision inspired impassioned dialogue on social media, particularly Twitter. On Monday night alone, 3.5 million tweets were sent out about Ferguson, including by ISIS supporters.
ISIS Is Using Ferguson As Propaganda On Twitter
Following the announcement and subsequent events, some Arabic-language journalists discovered that pro-ISIS supporters were very active in the Ferguson discussion on Twitter.
ISIS Arab fans are following events in #Ferguson, tweeting under 2 hashtags: America burning/ America collapsing #امريكا_تشتعل#امريكا_تنهار — Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) November 25, 2014
@neilschori it's horrible. Most of the tweets when you look up "فيرغسون" (AR for Ferguson) are ISIS driven. — Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) November 25, 2014
As Zack Beauchamp of Vox notes:
From the point of view of an ISIS propagandist, the manifest injustice in Ferguson is a goldmine. It allows them to portray the United States as a vicious, repressive state that lies through its teeth about ideals of equality and democracy. The ISIS caliphate, in this view, is the only force that can take on this monstrosity.
In essence, ISIS is using Ferguson to characterize democracy in the United States as a complete and utter façade. In the process, it's obviously hoping to recruit more people to its cause.
ISIS is attempting to exploit the situation by claiming that it cares more about the African-American community in the United States than the government.
Here are a few examples:
#ISIS #USA #Ferguson #FergusonDecision Our Islam says there is no difference between a white man and a black man pic.twitter.com/9jLoTtWIRz — أُم صبيَّة الجُهَنية (@we_will_go) November 25, 2014
#IslamicState sends its message to America, Today America has sent its message to the black community. #Ferguson — Abu Jandal (@ProtocolJihad01) November 25, 2014
To #Ferguson people the solution of #freedom is #islam " #IslamicState #is #ISIS #FergusonDecision — قهر الطواغيت (@QhrTgt) November 25, 2014
: الخوارج السود في امريكا يرفعون علم #داعش ! (؛ Hey blacks ISIS will save you #IS #Ferguson #WakeUpAmerica" pic.twitter.com/nYYnUzJH3U — ابـوعبدالله الشامـي (@aboabdalaaaaaa) November 26, 2014
Some tweets even referenced Malcolm X and his ties to Islam:
Oh #Ferguson know that many of your forefathers perhaps were Muslim. #FergusonDecision #IslamicState pic.twitter.com/oBngVPI8gs — Mindvision (@MindvisionMedia) November 26, 2014
Dr. Erin Saltman is the senior researcher for the anti-radicalization thinktank, the Quilliam Foundation, as she puts it:
We saw similar attempts from ISIS activist accounts using the hashtags of the Scottish independence referendum and the World Cup. Unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS allow for decentralised messaging, meaning activists from around the world can use their accounts and their voices to speak on behalf of ISIS.
While ISIS should hardly be commended for its efforts, it's hard to deny that this terrorist group has been quite savvy with its use of social media.
At the same time, it's hardly the first group to highlight racism and discrimination in America to further its own cause.
Russia Is Also Using Ferguson As Propaganda, Much Like The Soviet Union Used Jim Crow
It's no secret that Russia and the United States have an extremely contentious relationship. The US government frequently criticizes Russia for its apparent human rights abuses, particularly in relation to the LGBT community.
Correspondingly, the Obama administration has been habitually critical of Russia's foreign policy, especially its actions in Ukraine.
Accordingly, it comes as no surprise that the Russian government and media are highlighting Ferguson as an example of American hypocrisy.
On Tuesday, Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's human rights envoy made these statements in relation to Ferguson:
Racial discrimination, racial and ethnic tensions are major challenges to the American democracy, to stability and integrity of the American society. We may only hope that U.S. authorities seriously deal with those issues and other serious challenges in the human rights field in their own country and stop what they have been doing all along recently — playing an aggressive mentor lecturing other countries about how to meet human rights standards.
In many ways, he has a point. It's worth nothing that Amnesty International and the United Nations condemned the militarized police response in Ferguson back in August.
At the same time, this type of criticism from Russia is hardly new, and it's yet another example of the sparring match between two major powers.
In fact, this began as far back as the Cold War. Indeed, the Soviet Union used Jim Crow and racism in America as propaganda.
Likewise, as UC-San Diego sociologist John David Skrentny notes, "In the early 1950s the State Department estimated that nearly half of Soviet propaganda was on the racial issue." The Soviets attempted to argue that America violated human rights with systematic racism and segregation in southern states.
This means that for over half a century, Russia has used racism and discrimination as a propaganda tool against the United States.
While Russia has its own problems, it's sad that palpable intolerance has existed in the United States for this long, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
With that said, the United States is not the oppressive regime that ISIS and Russia would like to make it out to be, but that does not mean that it doesn't have some very serious issues to confront.
Racism, discrimination and injustice are still alive and well in the United States, and it's 2014.
It's up to every American to expose these injustices, or they will never be eradicated.