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Sydney Siege Flag Confusion Highlights Media Failures in Covering Global Jihad

Washington, D.C.

The recent incident involving the Sydney jihadi hostage-taker provided us countless examples that western media and governments lack a basic understanding of radical Islamism. The horrific act provided—for all to see—countless examples of a failure to report the basic facts and accurately describe the event as an act of Islamic terror.

The most obvious indication that hostage-taker Man Haron Monis was carrying out the terroristic act out of religious duty was when he forced hostages to display the black flag of jihad (Shahada) in the Lindt Cafe window. The Shahada read, “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

New York Magazine described the flag in the window as “a black flag bearing the Muslim declaration of faith.” But the flag represents so much more than a declaration of faith. History tells us that it, instead, represents a declaration of war in the name of Islam.

Countless Sunni terrorist organizations have used the black flag of jihad as their banner of choice, including groups such as al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and the Taliban.

Australia’s Channel 7 News brought in a so-called “Islamic terror expert,” who told them (wrongly) that the flag was exclusively that of Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian-based al-Qaeda offshoot. Nusra’s exclusive flag reads at the bottom, “Jabhat al-Nusra” in Arabic. Monis’s flag clearly did not.

The UK’s Daily Mail similarly and wrongly reported in a lengthy piece that the flag belonged to Nusra.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the flag belonged exclusively to jihadi group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Reuters’ Oliver Holmes, a reporter based in the Arabic-speaking country of Lebanon, asked on Twitter, “Anyone recognize this flag held up by hostages in Sydney?”

In his recent, astutely-written piece for Breitbart News, Kyle Shideler of the Center for Security Policy described how U.S. leaders have failed to grasp the ideology of global jihadist entities and its individual actors. We “fail to show respect by not taking our enemies and their ideas seriously. Instead we continuously assert–without evidence–that jihadist organizations, the members of Islamic State, Al Qaeda, etc. are ignorant of their own professed beliefs,” writes Shideler. He adds, “It is we who are ignorant.”

While Shideler’s commentary focuses on the American government—Australian officials also struggled to understand the threat as it was unfolding.

Hours into the incident, Australia’s NSW Police Commissioner took to the podium and appeared utterly clueless as to what the black flag represented. He declared, “it’s a flag that we’ve had people looking at. We’re working with partner agencies to better determine what we’re dealing with.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott seconded the confusion: “We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator,” he said in a statement.


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