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The New Arab Staff

US podcasters under fire for 'Islamic State group' logo merchandise

Social media users are debating whether the merchandise is ironic or offensive [Twitter]

Date of publication: 2 December, 2020

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Edgy podcast 'Red Scare' is selling t-shirts and tote bags that meld its name with a logo adopted by the IS group.
Two American podcasters are under fire after releasing merchandise featuring a likeness of the banner adopted by the Islamic State group.

Leftist podcast "Red Scare" released the merchandise on its website earlier this week.

The t-shirt and tote bags features a riff on the emblem - the seal of the Prophet Muhammad - which was appropriated by IS, and appears to have sold out in less than 24 hours. The myshopify store is now unavailable.

Critics accuse podcast hosts Dasha Nekrasova and Anna Khachiyan of "profiting off radical terrorist imagery", as put by Twitter user @dianelyssa.

The merchandise sold by "Red Scare" mimics the so-called banner used by IS, which features Islam's shahada (testimony of faith) - "There is no God but God and Muhammad is His Prophet" - in black and white.

While the shahada itself is used by Islam's more than a billion followers in prayers and every day conversation, and the Seal of the Prophet previously used by many Muslims, the banner has become synonymous with the extremist group.

The "Red Scare" merchandise features the suggestive figures of three women amid the Arabic lettering, replacing much of the first half of the Muslim testinomy of faith. The world "Allah" (God) is still legible.

The Red Scare merchandise [Screengrab]

In the black circle where the second half - "Muhammad is His Prophet" - of the shahada would appear, the "Red Scare" is written in a font designed to mimic the Arabic alphabet.

The merchandise sparked outrage on social media after it was shared on Twitter by podcast host Nekrasova.

Critics of the t-shirts pointed to discrimination faced by Arabs and Muslims, claiming the "ironic" merchandise was a display of "white privilege".

"This is just a lovely example of 'i'm not middle eastern so i can get away with wearing this to be edgy and not be arrested'," described Twitter user @dsemumi.

Fijian-Canadian @RY_Maharaj agreed: "If i wore this at the airport, i would probably be interrogated by airport security and asked if i was a terrorist but um okay."

Others condemned "Red Scare" for allegedly making light of IS and its crimes, which include genocide and sexual slavery.

"ISIS is known for sexually enslaving women and girls. Now this T-shirt designer decides to put sexy girls on the T-shirt with 'Red Scare' written. That's not even mocking ISIS. That's like the T-shirt that said 'I surfed the tsunami' (referencing the 2005 tsunami)," said Twitter user @Fil_Am_Expat.

Defenders of the podcasters countered that the merchandise was intended to mock the extremist group rather than its victims.

"People are missing the point with the red scare merch. Wouldn't isis terrorists be fucking furious that two funny pretty girls from New York are profiting from making fun of them," said Twitter user @sapphosviper.

Founded in 2018, "Red Scare" makes more than $30,000 a month through Patreon subscriptions. It is associated with the so-called "dirtbag left", a term that refers to leftists that use vulgar language, ironic "edginess", and often offensive rhetoric to convey their messages.

The podcast has recently featured interviews with controversial figures such as philosopher Slavoj Zizek, writer Matt Taibi, and journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Nekrasova told The New Arab that the t-shirts, originally released almost two years ago, were a "response to synergy in the news cycle at the time".

"When 
@visitordesign and I designed the shirt in March 2019, the 'MAGAbomber' Cesar Seyac was in the news for sending defective explosives in the mail, one of which had an ISIS parody sticker that read 'get er done' ala Larry the cable guy," Nekrasova explained in a Twitter direct message.

"The design was a riff on a sticker which was in English with mud flap graphics and available on eBay. The week we made the shirt the Trump administration had also announced the defeat of the ISIS caliphate," she added.

"The fact that there is 'backlash' almost 2 years after the fact is frankly manufactured outrage."

This article was ammended to include a comment from 'Red Scare' host Dasha Nekrasova


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