Last weekend, several Lebanese activists started a trend which has since gained prominence under the hashtag #BurnISISFlagChallenge or #BurnISIS. The protesters burned an Islamic State flag in retaliation to the presumed beheading of a Lebanese officer, an idea which quickly motivated others to post similar pictures or videos.
The self-perpetuating campaign follows the model of the well-known #IceBucketChallenge, and has found supporters on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. Here is one example:
Although having been praised by some Internet users, the campaign has been strongly criticized by the Lebanese justice minister who even called for "sternest punishments" for those who burned flags of the IS militant group last Saturday. In a statement, Ashraf Rifi declared it was necessary to "bring to justice those individuals who burned the ISIS flag in Sassine Square."
It is unclear whether the threat of prosecution also extends to others who have since jumped on the trend. The flag burned in Sassine Square was reportedly emblazoned with the tenet "there is no god but God and Mohamed is his prophet." According to the Lebanese justice minister, burning the flag constitutes an insult to Islamic religious symbols.
Lebanon is a country which has always struggled to maintain its national unity and to preserve the coexistence of Muslims and Christians. In the eyes of some Lebanese officials, the burning of religious symbols could potentially derail these past achievements and so far, there has indeed been a certain restraint among online activists to fully embrace the #BurnISISFlagChallenge. While the amount of actual videos and pictures posted online has so far remained limited, reactions are mixed.
#BurnISISFlagChallenge It's got Allah & Muhammad written on it. I'm against them but burn a flag with Allah written, I wouldn't suggest that
— YourLocalAfghan (@SadiiaaTaqwa) August 30, 2014
— Maha (@Alasil) August 31, 2014
— Taylor Dorsett (@Taylor_OCD) September 4, 2014