Twitter may be cracking down on graphic imagery shared by Islamic State fighters, but a more mundane and insidious type of propaganda is also being spread online: pictures of jihadists playing with kittens.
The Twitter account ‘Islamic State of Cats’ (@ISILCats) starting posting on June 25th and has since tweeted dozens of pictures supposedly showing fighters playing with kittens, along with a smattering of memes and other ‘homely’ images of life from Raqqah, the centre of Isis operations.
Most of these refer to the cats as ‘mewjahids’ (a pun on mujahideen, a term that’s often used to label extremist Muslim fighters) and show kittens playing alongside the paraphernalia of Isis members’ homes – bodybuilding weights, guns and ammunition.
It’s unclear whether the account is being run by a member of Isis or by a supporter based abroad, but the pictures certainly follow terrorist organization’s strategy of normalising its activities to Western audiences.
The Twitter account is one of many using shared cultural touchstones (memes and lolspeak_ alongside pictures of small acts of charity (one video shows a fighter feeding a dog with the hashtags #Justice and #AllEyesOnIsis) to try and ‘balance’ reports from the region of fear, poverty and widespread murder.
Images like this stand in stark contrast to footage of the death of James Foley – an American photojournalist who travelled to the region to document the citizens’ suffering and was decapitated as warning to America following US airstrikes.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph about the danger of accounts like @ISILCats, Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation think tank said: “If you don’t confront it, the softer postings on Facebook and Twitter will seek to normalise the idea of going to fight in Iraq and Syria.”
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