The ISIS terror flag is legal under Swedish law. It does not constitute hate speech because it expresses contempt for “all others”, and not a specific ethnic group, a Swedish prosecutor has said.
Gisela Sjövall announced last week that a 23-year-old Syrian who had posted the black ISIS flag on his Facebook page in June, would not face charges.
The flag was banned from public view in the Netherlands in August 2014, as well as Germany in September 2014.
A criminal investigation was launched into the Syrian from Laholm, on suspicion of committing hate speech, but the prosecutor told Sweden’s SVT broadcaster “One can say that he is expressing contempt for “all others”, and not against a specific ethnic group.”
“Up until now, we haven’t come to that point,” she told the local Hallandsposten newspaper. “That could change in ten years.”
According to Sweden’s hate speech laws, an image or statement represents “incitement to hatred”, if threatens or disparages a group because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religious belief or sexual orientation.
She said that while the swastika symbolised a hatred for Jews, the same could not yet be said of the ISIS flag.
“If there had been anything in the text [posted alongside the flag] with more specific formulations about certain groups, for example homosexuals, the ruling could have been different,” Sjövall continued. “For me, there are no doubts about the decision not to prosecute.”
The man, questioned in June, denied that the flag indicated support for the Islamic State. His lawyer Björn Nilsson told the local Hallandsposten newspaper that according to client the flag had been misappropriated by ISIS.
Monochrome flags are an ancient tradition in ancient Eastern, Arabic and Islamic tradition. The flag is also used by al-Shabab in Somalia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, among other terror groups.
In July an image posted on social media showed a man with a young girl on his shoulders strolling past the Houses of Parliament in Britain carrying the terror group’s black banner.
Police decided he was not breaking the law, but their controversial decision has sparked outrage among patriotic Brits who say they have been unfairly penalised for displaying the St George’s Cross. Taxi drivers in Southampton were asked to remove St George flags from their cars showing they could speak English.
Two years ago Denise Said, who had three English flags stuck on her taxi, was told by Teignbridge Council in Devon to take them off because they breached equality laws.
One forum user joked: “Man draped in ISIS flag walks past Houses of Parliament.
“Good job it wasn’t the St George flag because that is apparently racist and offensive.”
Another said: “How often do we hear stories of council officials demanding union flags be removed because they are offensive? It is getting beyond belief.”
Hundreds accused the police of hypocrisy.