Partly, the focus is strategic: Officers in Ferguson have used military transports and weapons similar to those used by U.S. troops in Iraq. But militants are also claiming vindication — that their arguments about American oppression were right all along. “Well this clearly shows that all this talk about democracy and equality of people in the west is just hypocrisy,” said Abu Sameer after a private autopsy sought by the family of Michael Brown showed that the 18-year-old had been shot at least six times. Abu Sameer lives in France and identifies himself as a member of the Islamic State, a group that has conducted a campaign of mass killings and other atrocities in northern Iraq.
The Islamic State and other jihadist movements are using the events outside St. Louis as propaganda against the West. One argument they’ve been making for years is that racism and discrimination are rampant in some parts of the West, and they’re hoping the Ferguson riots could help recruit black Americans. “In Islam there is no racism, and we think black people will wake up and follow the example of Malcolm X and others who understood that this way is the only way to justice,” said Abu Mansour, who lives in Germany and is also a follower of the Islamic State.
All of the jihadists interviewed said Brown’s death confirms their beliefs that blacks are seen as second-class citizens by whites and especially by the police. “I think that blacks in the U.S. will look more towards Islam,” said Anjem Choudary from Great Britain, co-founder of the banned “al-Muhajiroun” group. (Choudary’s teacher, Omar Bakri Muhammad, was barred from Britain and is currently in a Lebanese jail for his alleged support of jihadist movements in Syria and Iraq.) “The only way of life today that does not look at race is in fact Islam. Islam only distinguished people by whether they are Muslim or not. The color of their skin does not play a role,” Choudary said in a phone interview.
Some self-described supporters of fighters of the Islamic State have also taken the discussion to social media platforms using the hashtag “#FergusonUnderIS” and “ISISHERO.” Some English-language examples:
According to Site Intelligence Group, an organization that tracks the online activity of terrorists, the accounts have mainly
, arguing that blacks are victims of “democracy while promising less discrimination under Shari’ah law.” A tweet from a user called Abu Ottoman, for instance, said:
Site Intelligence Group also pointed out the now-deleted Twitter account of Mujahid Miski, who claims to be a jihadist fighter from the United States and posted under the #FergusonUnderIS hashtag: “I thought u guys back in Ferguson were supposed to be Free & that u had equal rights. I’d really like to know what changed?” He also said, “Justice and Equality is under the Shari’ah law. You’ll never get it under Democracy.”
Abu Mansour in Germany and Abu Sameer in France asked not to be identified by their real names because they fear arrest for their affiliation with the Islamic State. But both also stated that Ferguson would also teach Muslims in Europe a big lesson about the rise of right-wing and racist movements there, too. “What has happened in Ferguson today, can also happen anytime in France, Germany or Britain,” said Abu Sameer. “The anti-Muslim sentiments are there and became normality and we tell the youth, communism has failed, the Islamic State is your only solution.”