Isis 'ice bucket challenge': Lebanese activists burning flag sparks anti-Islamic State hashtag campaign

#BurnISISFlagChallenge has been circulating on social media

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The Independent Online

Pictures of Lebanese activists burning flags in Beruit in protest against Islamic State militants have sparked a hashtag campaign against Isis.

The hashtags #BurnISISFlagChallenge or #BurnISIS have been circulating across social media after pictures of three boys burning a flag in Beruit’s Sassine Square emerged on Saturday.

One example was a video of person burning a picture of the flag, captioned: “I nominate the whole world to the #BurnISISFlagChallenge. You have 24 hours. GO!!"

The burning is understood to be in response to the beheading of a Lebanese officer by Islamic militants.

Members of Isis and and al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, overran the border town of Arsal for several days in August, capturing and killing soldiers and police. The government is still trying to negotiate their release.

Photographs of the soldier's death were posted on social media on 28 August, prompting anger from mourners in Lebanon who accused the government of neglect for failing to secure his release.

The burning of the flag has been heavily criticised by the Lebanese justice minister, who was quoted in Lebanese news as warning the “strongest punishments” would be meted out to those who burned flags last week.

According to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ashraf Rifi issued a statement saying the flag burned in Sassine Square had the Muslim Shahada, or declaration of faith, written on it, “which is the cornerstone of Islam and has nothing to do with Isis and its terrorist approach.”

Burning the flag is therefore illegal, he said, as it constituted “an insult to the religious slogans of the Abrahamic faiths, and could stir up sectarian conflicts".

However, Nabil Naqoula, a member of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc criticised his harsh response, saying the flag "does not represent Islam in the slightest".

Tweets containing the hashtags have been common but pictures of people actually burning flags have been slower to emerge. Charlie Cooper, programs officer at the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremism think tank, said this may be because of the writing on the flag.

He told The Independent: “When someone converts to become a Muslim they will say: 'there is no god but God, Mohamed is the messenger of God', and those are the principle beliefs from which everything emanates.

“Because of this, burning it is very controversial and could present theological issues for devout Muslims who reject the Islamic State.”

An Isis militant, believed to be the so-called Jihadi John, beheaded a second American journalist this week and has now threatened the life of a third British hostage, David Haines. Video footage of the gruesome murder of both Steven Sotloff and James Foley were released online by Isis.