Thursday, September 18, 2014

ISIL censored videos still invoke fear & concerns

On the 14th September ISIL claimed to have killed a British hostage and published an execution video on the Internet. It was the latest in a series of such videos showing western hostages forced to denounce foreign policy prior to their execution by a member of the terror group ISIL [BBCNBC / D Mail].

The barbarity of ISIL is unquestioned. This is a terror group that has been involved with the wholesale slaughter of entire villages and executions [Warning Graphic: D Mail /   EAWorldView / LiveLeak]. They have beheaded and crucified ethnic minorities and Christians in northern Iraq and Syria [Telegraph / WesternJournalism / Vice News]. And it is also reported that ISIL are also selling women as sex slaves [Telegraph / D Mail / Al Arabiya / Zee News].

Execution videos

The videos related to the execution of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, and British aid worker David Haines all have striking similarities. All the hostages are dressed in orange boiler suits. The militant who appears in the videos appears to be the same man and speaks in a London accent. And the location where the videos were shot is a barren desert. As well as there being a focus on the identity of the militant and location, the content and editing has also raised a number of questions.

While few doubt the men have been murdered by the terror group, the actual killing not shown. After the hostages have made statements condemning Barack Obama or, in the case of David Haines, David Cameron, an ISIL militant follows by making his own statement and raises a knife to the victims throat. The video then fades to black. The video then shows the victim's decapitated head placed on his body. This apparent self-censorship has struck some as being somewhat bizarre given the group is hardly known for its sensitivity.

Anomalies and conspiracies

Another anomaly is that there are few, if any religious references. The Islamic State militants claim to be guided by the Koran, but there are no shouts of  Allāhu Akbar [الله أكبر], or "God is Great", something which is often a trademark of Islamic extremist videos. Some have also pointed to the fact that as the militant appears to draw the knife over the victim's throat it appears to be more for show since there is no sign of blood [Telegraph / IBT / Global Mirror / TopInfoPost].

The inconsistencies have spawned many conspiracy theories, with some even suggesting the hostages have not even been killed and that the series of videos are part of a well crafted PsyOps perpetrated by the United States to justify military intervention in Syria and Iraq [InfoWars / LiveLeak].

However, whether or not the video is fake, made by rogue elements of ISIL or even a PsyOp, ISIL is clearly a threat. Indeed, the videos themselves have certainly been accepted at face value by both ISIL supporters and its enemies.

Propaganda & copycat plots

They have served as useful propaganda to draw together allies in a renewed war on terror. The videos have also served as a recruiting tool and it is feared that they are also giving ideas to those who might wish to carry out domestic attacks abroad.

Only days after the third hostage execution video was released Australian police launched raids and arrested a number of suspects it believed were planning random executions.

Police said they had uncovered information that suggested Islamic extremists were plotting to capture members of the public, drape them in the Islamic State flag and behead them.

The "demonstration killings" would have been filmed and then posted on the Internet, according to Australian media reports. The raids, involving at least 800 heavily-armed officers, led to 15 arrests [BBC / Sky News / CNNABC / Mashable / .

Raising threat levels

The reports will not only certain raise public concerns in Australia, but also in Britain, Europe and the US. Australia had already raised its terror alert level to "High", suggesting that a terror attack was "likely" [National Security]. Britain had also raised its alert level to "Severe", meaning that a terrorist attack was "highly likely" [MI5].

The reportage, posting of extremist videos and terror threats have served to increase Islamophobia and racism.

Rising Islamophobia

Indeed it has been reported that Islamic State extremism and the Rotherham abuse scandal are fuelling a far-right backlash in the UK, according to one of the Home Office's most senior advisers on right-wing extremism [BBC].

Data compiled by Tell Mama UK, which monitors anti-Islamic hatred, reflects fears that the actions of ISIL are provoking Islamophobia in the UK. In August it received 219 reports of abusive incidents targeted at Muslims in England, the same month as the IS beheading of US journalist James Foley. This was almost double the 112 incidents recorded in January.

In pubs across Britain some people are not shy of expressing their anger and intolerance of Muslims. "We should round up all the beardies and send them back," one man in a pub on the far outskirts of London declared. Another, asked for his view on the subject, suggested authorities round up all Sunni Muslims with a connection to ISIL and string them up on the wind turbines at the Ford plant in Dagenham. He went on to say anyone identified as a member of ISIL should be hung, drawn and quartered

Such views are extreme, and could be dismissed as just talk. However there are some that are prepared to do more than just talk.

Fears in Muslim communities

Such talk is raising fears in the Muslim community. And while British Muslims have condemned the terror groups and called for the release of British hostage Alan Henning this has done little to calm anger amongst some in the white community [BBC]. Indeed, the perceived threat from ISIL and other extremists may even trigger social disorder in communities across Britain and elsewhere.

Despite all the claims by politicians that terrorists should not be allowed to change our way of life, the opposite is in fact true. Real or not, the terror threat has resulted in tighter security, increased surveillance, growing racism and a more suspicious society.

The reasons behind the self-censorship of ISIL videos remains unclear. They are certainly less graphic than the videos released by Al Qaeda several years ago such as the execution of lorry driver Ken Bigley. But the effect has been the same - one of perpetrating fear.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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