They have adopted the Internet’s love of cats, used small children in propaganda, and sold kitschy t-shirts. And now the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the jihadist terror group attempting a full takeover of Iraq, is calling on Lionel Messi, one of the West’s greatest treasures, to abandon international soccer stardom and become a jihadist.
Messi almost singlehandedly ousted Iran’s soccer team from the World Cup this week with a goal some described as “magical.” It gave Argentina a last-minute 1-0 lead. In response, a Twitter account The Washington Post reports is associated with ISIS congratulated the Argentine phenom on his victory and warmly invited him to abandon a life of riches and fame and move to the Middle East to help ISIS kill Shi’ites:
— ????? ???? ???? (@Daash_News) June 21, 2014
The message (according to Google Translate) “salutes” Messi and “invites him to join Daash,” the Arabic acronym for ISIS. It also offers Messi the title of Abu Mahdav and calls to “reinstall the princes of South America.” While the group’s use of “al-Sham” to describe a nebulous portion of the Middle East is sometimes translated as “Syria” and may include lands as far as Lebanon and Israel, the term has never been used to include South America.
The congratulatory message was particularly apt given the defeat of Iran, as ISIS’s mission is not just to establish a Muslim caliphate in the region, but to eradicate Shi’ite Islam from the world. Iran is home to the largest population of Shi’ite Muslims in the world. Nonetheless, several news organizations have concluded that it is a joke, one in an increasingly thick volume of ISIS-related humor intended to court Western Muslims into sympathizing with its cause and see them as more than bloodthirsty medieval-style terrorists. ISIS’s use of social media and Western-style humor has attracted larger numbers of jihadists from places like Australia and the UK than similar terrorist groups, and it has garnered them a reputation for being more dangerous to the West than many others.
At press time, Messi has not responded to the jihadist call. The Internet has speculated that some have previously attempted to convert Messi to Islam, with some strange corners of the Internet claiming to have proof of a conversion. However, Messi is public about his Catholic faith and has previously taken pilgrimages to areas in which Virgin Mary sightings have been reported.