Jihadis Appropriate Christmas Imagery To Threaten Violence During Holiday Season

December 23, 2021

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here. 

Over the last two months, jihadis of diverse affiliations have increasingly appropriated Christmas imagery to produce targeted propaganda aimed at threatening and inciting violence during the 2021 holiday season.

ISIS Holiday Propaganda Aimed At Inciting Lone-Wolf Attacks in West

While the media apparatus of the Islamic State (ISIS) annually ramps up production of threatening content ahead of the Christmas season,[1] this season, ISIS supporters have produced their own Christmas-inspired materials aimed at inciting violence against Westerners.

On December 20, 2021,  a user of the ISIS-operated Rocket.Chat server posted a violent cartoon depicting a veiled fighter brandishing a bloody knife in one hand and holding the severed head of Santa Claus in the other.[2] Encouraging lone-wolf attacks in the West, the user wrote:

"With the advent of the so-called polytheistic celebrations that the unbelievers are experiencing these days, we send a message to our monotheist brothers in Europe, America, Australia, Canada, Russia, and other countries of unbelief and apostasy: We say to you, our brothers, oh monotheists, avenge your brothers and sisters who have been killed and captured by these scumbags. Oh, monotheist brothers, know that a monotheist is an army by himself, so trust in Allah and seek refuge in Him. Attack the citizens of crusader coalition countries with your knives, run them over in the streets, detonate bombs on them, and spray them with bullets. Those who preceded you on this path, who frightened the Crusaders and robbed them of safety and security in their own homes, like their deeds, may Allah accept them and replicate them, for replicating the honorable is successful. With this cold, snow, and rain, we ask Allah to ease the suffering of our united brothers in prisons and detention centers and we ask Him to relieve our sisters in the [Al-Hawl and Al-Roj] camps. Oh Allah, have mercy on them, Oh Lord, and hasten the release of their families."

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Earlier, on December 3, 2021, another Rocket.Chat server user, encouraged terrorist attacks in Europe during the Christmas season, writing: "Imagine with me, brothers, if Muslim refugees in Crusader Europe took hostages while the pigs [Christians] celebrate their polytheistic holidays and forced the European crusaders to order their angry dogs to release our sisters from the Al-Hawl and Ain Issa camps or else they would cut off the pigs' heads. #Christmas."[3]


Iran-Backed Shi'ite Militia Holiday Propaganda Targets Western Audience

Since November, Iran-backed Shi'ite militias in Iraq have also published several Christmas-inspired posters, whose primary theme was retaliation against U.S. forces which remain in Iraq past 2021. The choice of symbols and language in these posters suggests they primarily targeted a Western audience, as opposed to the pro-ISIS Christmas content, which appeared to be geared toward Arabic-speaking jihadis in the West. 

On December 20 a Telegram channel that supports Iran-backed Shi'ite militias in Iraq published a poster depicting a rocket bearing the emblem of the Al-Nujaba Movement protruding from a decorated Christmas gift box marked with the year 2022. The poster's text, which reads "A rocket storm will be a New Year's surprise," alluded to ongoing militia pledges to attack U.S. forces which remain in Iraq past the December 31 withdrawal deadline.[4]

Earlier, on November 29, another Telegram channel that supports Iran-backed Shi'ite militias in Iraq, disseminated a poster depicting a bruised USCENTCOM Commander General Kenneth McKenzie dressed as Santa Claus, posing in front of a burning Christmas tree. "Bring the red wine, we will roast General Mackenzie 2021/12/31," the text read, in another reference to the troop withdrawal deadline.[5]

The Hizbullah Brigades, an Iran-backed Shi'ite militia, released a poster on November 20 via one of its Telegram channels, which showed a makeshift Christmas tree assembled from rifles and the helmets of U.S. soldiers. The text at the top of the poster read: "Merry Christmas." An accompanying Telegram post stated: "We will meet after the hour 00:00 on December 31, 2021."[6]

[2] Rocket.Chat, Techhaven_General, December 20, 2021.

[3] Rocket.Chat, Techhaven_General, December 3, 2021.

[4] Telegram, December 20, 2021.

[5] Telegram, November 29, 2021.

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The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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