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Jihadist Gang Graffiti
by Dawn Perlmutter
Young Islamists and their sympathizers are tagging, stenciling, painting, vandalizing and using every genre of graffiti to spread the global jihadist message. Similar to other gangs they are using spray paint to mark their territory, demonstrate their allegiance, advertise their gang's status and power, memorialize fallen fellow gang members, praise violence and threaten their enemies. Jihadist graffiti functions as communication and recruitment and is popping up in cities around the world including: Toronto, London, Dublin, Derry, Glasgow, Augsburg, Munich, Moscow, Toulouse, Frejus, Helsinki, Rome, Crete, Jerusalem, Beirut, Salt lake City, New York City, Washington, D.C. Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland and many others. Islamist graffiti is a popular artistic form of rebellion that portrays the global jihad movement as hip and cool. It appeals to young people who do not consider graffiti vandalism but view it as artistic expression and an agency for popular resistance and change. Spray painting Islamist slogans and jihadist phrases goes beyond graffiti as protest art. Islamist graffiti is a symbolic warfare tactic, a successful stealth information strategy camouflaged as street art.
Although Islamist graffiti is relatively new to Western cities, the words, signs and symbols of terrorist groups have been proudly spray painted on their home turf for decades. Similar to gangs who mark their neighborhoods with slogans or symbols exclusive to the gang, Palestinian terrorist groups spray paint their emblems on the walls of Nablus, Gaza City and Ramallah, often not far from posters glorifying suicide bombers. Gang graffiti also frequently includes the territory claimed by the gang. Similarly Palestinian graffiti often depicts the map of Israel to represent what they consider to be their turf.
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