An American Abroad

ISIS in Sousse?!?!

This appeared recently on the wall near a school here in Sousse and was photographed by my friend Sybil Bullock:


Yes, that’s the ISIS flag. But I’m not sure of the meaning behind it. It could just be the work of some zealous but misguided football (soccer) fans who want to project a badder-than-thou image. Or it could be something more sinister. I’m hoping for the former.


  1. The flag is not just for ISIS
    this flag was Exist about more than 1400 years ago so 1400 years ago there is no ISIS
    so ISIS just use it like his flag i mean when u see someone have or agree with the flag that’s not mean that they support ISIS
    because me and i can say 98% of Muslims like this flag cause it’s the flag of Muslims but we don’t support ISIS , u have to undrestand that cause i’m a Muslim and i know many things about Islam and ISIS

    • James Trumm says:

      Thanks for your comment, Akrem. Can you point me to any articles, books, or websites that discuss the origins of this flag? I’m curious to see where you got your information and I’m curious to learn more.

      But the other thing I would say in response is that new and acquired meanings are more important than ancient historical ones. For example, there was a time in America, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where displaying the American flag was a kind of semi-secret way of saying that you supported the war in Vietnam. It took decades for many liberals, such as myself, to become comfortable with displaying our flag again.

    • James Trumm says:

      Wikipedia (not entirely to be relied on) says that something similar to this flag dates to the 18th century and comes from a Pashtun tradition.

      This Quora author says that Mohammed used a black-colored flag in his holy war, though it’s doubtful that such a flag included the shahada. It says too that the ISIS flag, with the shahada sentence and the ring of the prophet, only dates to 2011.

      This site, which analyzes flag iconogaraphy, says that “A black flag with the shahada inscribed in white was spotted on Jihadist websites from at least 2001. Even though the historical black banner did not have any inscription, this variant is commonly known as al-rāya ‘the banner’ or rayat al-`uqab ‘banner of the eagle’ after the hadith tradition, and has been dubbed the black flag of jihad by western observers.”

      My rough conclusion — and I am certainly NOT an expert on flags or Islam — is that the ISIS flag is a relatively new flag, but one which incorporates graphic elements of much older flags (the color black, the shahada). Obviously, ISIS would want to link itself in people’s minds to an ancient tradition to give it the appearance of legitimacy.

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