‘ISIS Is Here’: Islamic State Graffiti in America

Marking territory.

[](/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/02/ll7.jpg)On February 4, 2015 the head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, Michael Steinbach said that the FBI has seen children as young as 15 recruited by the Islamic State aka ISIS, ISIL. Two days later FBI Director James Comey said there are open cases looking into individuals who may be connected to ISIS in every state in the Union except Alaska. Evidence of the Islamic State’s successful recruiting efforts in America is literally written on the walls. Islamic State graffiti has appeared in Minneapolis, MN, Houston, TX, La Vegas, Nevada, Phoenix, AZ, Bakersfield, Ca, Washington, DC , Brooklyn, NY, and in many cities around the world. Followers of the U.S. designated terrorist group are showing their support in every form of graffiti from full color pieces to the graffiti genre of stickers; aka labels or slaps.

On October 2, 2014 in the Lyndale neighborhood of Minneapolis, graffiti was reported via neighborhood watch mobile app. The graffiti depicted the words ISIS in bubble letters with the phrase ‘will remain’ underneath, next to an accurate line drawing of the black ISIS flag with Arabic writing and the Prophets seal. The phrase ‘ISIS will remain’ is a reference to the terrorist groups motto ‘Remaining and Expanding’. The level of detailed knowledge of the Islamic States symbolism in this graffiti is clearly indicative of an ISIS sympathizer. This should not be surprising since at least a dozen young American Muslims from Minneapolis and St. Paul have left their homes to join and fight alongside ISIS in Syria. Two U.S. citizens from Minnesota were killed in Syria fighting beside ISIS.

In September 2014 in Bakersfield, CA a full color graffiti piece of the word ISIS! appeared on Ridgeview High School. A concerned neighbor contacted local eyewitness news who reported the story and interviewed a Police Sgt. who said “I don’t know if there is anything to do with the conflict in the Middle East,” “or just a tagger that’s seen this on the news and thought that’d be a cool moniker.” Unfortunately due to the administrations politically correct policies that purged anti-terrorism training materials that are deemed offensive to Muslims, officers are not trained to accurately access the threat. The fact that the neighborhood has a large number of Muslims was also mentioned in the article. The neighbor who reported the incident seemed to be more concerned that it may be someone trying to make Muslims look bad as opposed to evidence of ISIS sympathizers in the area. This attitude is the result of messaging from the mainstream media that emphasizes Muslim victimhood instead of potential terrorist threats.

The large full color bubble letters spelling out ISIS! With the image of an eye in the dot over the first letter is iconographically indicative of more common gang graffiti. However that should not rule out any connections to the Islamic State, on the contrary proximity to the anniversary of 911 should be part of the threat assessment. The fact that ISIS is actively recruiting American teens through social media and tweeting out images of ISIS graffiti around the world should be factored into the assessment. This could be a local teen who is dabbling in ISIS ideology. Similar to teen wannabe gang bangers who mimic Crips and Bloods symbolism, this graffiti could signify a wannabe ISIS fighter, the largest baddest gang in the world. ISIS graffiti in other countries has also appeared on schools. In October 2014 ‘ISIS R Coming’ and ‘ISIS Beheads’was written on East Hills Boys High School in Sydney, Australia. In October 2014 pro-ISIS graffiti was written on a girl’s elementary school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The graffiti which was written in Arabic read “The Islamic State will remain perpetual in our hearts”. High schools are notorious breeding grounds for gang and terrorist recruitment.

On September 18, 2014 ISIS graffiti appeared on a house in Brooklyn, New York. The graffiti which appeared in three separate writings near each other read ‘ISIS is here’, ‘28 days’, and ‘9/11 is an inside job’. As reported in Home Reporter, A runner in Shore Road Park who saw the graffiti on the park house at 79th street said

“I was obviously upset,” .. adding, “I’m sure it was some stupid punks in the neighborhood.” “Local restaurateur Roger Desmond, who was out walking with his wife, agreed. “It sent a chill down our spine,”….. “You watch it on the six o’clock news, then you see it in Bay Ridge. It’s the reality today. You can’t ignore it anymore. It’s probably stupid kids. I’ve got my fingers crossed. It’s all you can do. “According to a police source, “We highly believe that a bunch of kids did it.” The source also said that the graffiti had been “deemed not a bias incident.”

According to the report both the police and the public relegated the graffiti to stupid kids. This is the dangerous result of the administrations propaganda that perpetuates the denial of the threat that the Islamic State poses to the homeland. New York Graffiti that references ISIS one week after 911 is disregarded as child’s play. Perhaps these are the same kids that FBI Director James Comey described as, “troubled souls that might look to find meaning in this sick, misguided way. The challenge that we face in law enforcement is that they may be getting exposed to that poison and that training in their basement,” Comey said. “They’re sitting there consuming and may emerge from the basement to kill people of any sort, which is the call of ISIL, just kill somebody.” They may first emerge from their basement to vandalize houses with ISIS graffiti and then like other gang members escalate to violent activity.

There is no misinterpreting the graffiti stickers of the black ISIS flag that are being plastered all over the Southwest including Texas, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. A Houston man Adam Abdulrahman aka Abdul-Rahman Baghdadi or Houston Baghdadi has placed ISIS flag stickers on memorials, city vehicles, buses, trucks, highway signs and other places across the southwest. His twitter handle is a homage to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. He has shared photos of his black flag graffiti stickers on Twitter and YouTube and tweets his support of the terrorist group. His YouTube moniker, AbdulRahman IS America, has Islamic State initials in the middle. On 9-21-14 he posted a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State in front of a police officer while being escorted away from a mosque. These graffiti stickers cannot be attributed to stupid kids. Instead this type of behavior is often written off as mental illness or a person who is seeking attention. Violence committed in the name of the Islamic State and mental illnesses are not necessarily mutually exclusive which is precisely why this type of graffiti should be taken seriously. Adam Abdulrahman profiles exactly like Man Haron Monis, the Australian who took and killed hostages in a 17 hour siege at the Lindt Chocolate Café in Sydney, in December 2014. Monis like Houston Bagdadi had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, had a history of flamboyant activism, was known to the police and was described as unstable and mentally ill.

In September 2014 ISIS graffiti appeared in prominent areas throughout Northwest Washington, D.C. The most frequently displayed message read “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Greatest) in Arabic, and underneath in English Letters ISIS. This was described as nonthreatening in the Daily Intelligencer “Will McCants, director of the Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, has seen the graffiti in D.C., too. “I’ll bet it’s just someone goofing off,” he says. “Why write Allah Akbar in Arabic and then switch to the Latin alphabet for ISIS?” Because ISIS is the signature of the Islamic State and Allahu Akbar signifies Islamic supremacism and is the jihadist battle cry. ISIS written in Latin letters have appeared in Islamic State graffiti in Kosovo, Indonesia, Pakistan, Balochistan and other non-English language countries.

Will McCants’ presumption that ISIS graffiti in Washington D.C. is just someone goofing off is an example of the fundamental misinterpretation of Islamic State symbolism. Graffiti has to be understood in the language of the streets not just as a semiotic, hermeneutic or theological exegesis. ISIS in Latin letters is a common gang tag of the Islamic State, the black flag with the prophets seal is their primary gang identifier. ISIS tags and flag graffiti are photographed and tweeted out to communicate affiliation among members and recruit Westerners.

Islamic State graffiti should be interpreted in the same manner as any other gang graffiti. Significantly graffiti is often the first indication that street gangs are active in your community. It is used to glorify the gang, mark territory, demonstrate the gangs power and status, create a sense of intimidation and fear, and for individual gang members to show association and allegiance. When gang units document Bloods, Crips, MS13, Latin Kings and other gang graffiti they do not attribute it to stupid kids, they understand that it reflects gang activity and the inherent violence associated with it. When graffiti in Brooklyn, New York reads ‘ISIS is here’ we better believe it.


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