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What IS Militants Fantasize About: Fighter Jets, White Horses, And Destroying Big Ben


Islamic State militants often create images showing their gunmen achieving one of the Sunni ultraextremist group's biggest dreams: overrunning the United States or another Western country, and burning down (or blowing up) the symbols of their liberal democracies.

Islamic State militants often create images showing their gunmen achieving one of the Sunni ultraextremist group's biggest dreams: overrunning the United States or another Western country, and burning down (or blowing up) the symbols of their liberal democracies.

What if there was an Islamic State (IS) stealth fighter jet? What if Umar al-Shishani took over (and burned down) the British Houses of Parliament? What would happen if IS annexed Saudi Arabia and took over Mecca?

While none of these things is remotely likely, Islamic State militants and their supporters have used Photoshop and imagination to fantasize about what would happen if they were -- sometimes with unintentionally amusing results.

These images, which are widely shared on IS social-media accounts, often appear in reaction to particular events and news reports, while others are more symbolic and depict a strange, fantasy realm.

The IS Fighter-Jet Fantasy

Reports that Islamic State militants had gained possession of a number of Syrian fighter jets when they overran the Tabqa Syrian Air Force base in September led to a plethora of Photoshopped images imagining what an IS air force could look like.

This image depicts a fantasy version of an Islamic State fighter-jet pilot. Standing in front of an aircraft with an Islamic State logo on its nosecone, the pilot's head is entirely wrapped in a black-and-white keffiyah, which appears to be obscuring his vision (not a sensible choice for a fighter pilot).

Another popular image is this one, which shows an imaginary Islamic State stealth fighter jet. The aircraft is painted black and its wings are adorned with the white IS logo. In reality, the choice of highly visible, large, white logos on a stealth aircraft would not be a good move.

These fantasy images of pilots and fighter jets are the closest that Islamic State militants are likely to get to an actual air force, however: although IS did manage to capture a few Syrian jets at Tabqa, the militant group is not thought to have the expertise to fly them, let alone launch sorties that require reconnaissance and midflight refueling.

Attacking The United States And The West

Islamic State militants often create images showing their gunmen achieving one of the Sunni ultraextremist group's biggest dreams: overrunning the United States or another Western country, and burning down (or blowing up) the symbols of their liberal democracies.

In these two images, produced and shared by Russian-speaking Islamic State militants, IS gunmen are shown attacking two major Western landmarks: the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. and the U.K. Houses of Parliament in London.

The image of the Capitol shows three impossibly large IS flags atop its roofs and central dome. A few IS militants are depicted milling around on the lawns, while the Capitol building is aflame.

In the second image, IS military commander Umar al-Shishani is apparently escaping after setting fire to the Houses of Parliament. The scene takes place at night: meanwhile, two grinning, bearded militants look on in delight, apparently from another time zone where it is still daylight. A caption, in Russian, reads: "Soon!! In all cities of the world."

Islamic State Fantasy Worlds

Some of the images produced by IS militants are purely fantastical in nature.

In this image, Islamic State is symbolized by a white steed, which is leaping unscathed from the gaping, slavering jaws of what appear to be a pack of wolves. The wolves presumably represent Islamic State's detractors and enemies, such as the United States and its Western allies.

The symbolism of the image was called into question by some Syria watchers on Twitter, however.

Conquering The Muslim World

Saudi Arabia is a frequent topic on Islamic State social media, particularly after the Persian Gulf state joined the U.S.-led coalition against IS in September.

In this Photoshopped image, IS has conquered Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and has placed its notorious black flag over the Ka'aba, the center of the Al-Haram Mosque and most sacred location in Islam.

The image shows Muslims sitting facing the conquered Ka'aba.

The symbolism of this image is clear: wherever Muslims are in the world, they have to face the Ka'aba in Mecca when they pray, and in this fantasy world, Muslims now pray to Islamic State.

There have also been reports that IS militants have said they will destroy the Ka'aba and "kill those who worship stones."

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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