Fanning the flamesFanning the flames

#Burn ISIS Flag Challenge goes viral

Lebanese social media ablaze with videos, as justice minister orders a crackdown due to the banner’s religious slogan

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

The 'Burn ISIS Flag Challenge' (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
The 'Burn ISIS Flag Challenge' (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

Following the reported beheadings of two Lebanese soldiers by the Islamic State, the “#Burn ISIS Flag Challenge,” a spin-off of the hugely popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, went viral on Lebanese social media.

But the online campaign drew fire from lawmakers, who have condemned the practice due to the Islamic declaration of faith emblazoned on the flag.

Thousands took to their personal social media account last week to post a video of themselves lighting up the black-and-white banner along with the #Burn ISIS Flag Challenge or #Burn ISIS hashtags, and have nominated “the whole world” to follow suit.

The campaign began after several protesters burned the ISIS flags in Sassine Square in a protest that sparked an outcry from Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi, who called on the activists to be prosecuted for desecrating the sacred slogan.

“This morning, some people burnt the flag of ISIS in Sassine Square and their symbol reads: ‘No God but Allah and Mohammad the prophet of Allah,’ which is the cornerstone of Islam,” he told the Lebanese Daily Star.

“This symbol has nothing to do with ISIS and its terrorist approach.”

Rifi turned to state prosecutor Samir Hammoud to try the perpetrators, who subsequently opened an investigation. The justice minister further argued that the practice was liable to cause sectarian tensions.

However, another Lebanese lawmaker defended the campaign, saying the protesters “only burned the ISIS flag without the intention of insulting Islam.”

About two dozen members of Lebanon’s security forces are still held captive by the militants. They were seized in August when several Syrian rebel factions, including the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front, overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal, killing and kidnapping soldiers and policemen in the most serious spillover yet of the neighboring civil war.

AP contributed to this report.

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