clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

So-called 'ISIS vampire' loves drinking blood, even though it's not halal

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Al Arabiya is reporting a disturbing new development in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS): they've recruited a vampire to their cause.

Well, not actually. Al Arabiya found the above YouTube video of a self-described ISIS fighter, Rabie Shehada, where he talks about his — and his colleagues' — fondness for quaffing plasma. "We are a people who love drinking blood," Shehada, who also calls himself "the Palestinian slayer," says in Arabic in the video.

"I swear we are a people who love death for the sake of God just as you love to live … We came to slaughter you," Shehada intones.

Drinking blood is haram, or forbidden by Islamic law, as this helpful Filipino government explainer on halal meat preparation explains. So Shehada's vampirism isn't exactly by the ISIS book. But even if he's being metaphorical, which he probably is, this clip speaks to a larger issue for ISIS. While the group is usually portrayed as social media savvy, they're actually having trouble with their followers being too brutal on the internet.

iraqi jihadis

So that's why their faces are covered when it's light out. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

ISIS's social media strategy — which amounts to broadcasting their atrocities to generate fear and inspire recruits — walks a tight line. They need to be brutal enough to recruit likeminded people, but not so brutal that they turn off the civilian support they depend on. That's why, according to one now-deleted tweet (warning: graphic images) from an alleged ISIS supporter, "we are not allowed to post unofficial beheadings."

Unofficial beheadings. It's quite a phrase.

Moreover, cartoonish evil is only an effective recruiting tool if ISIS is making military progress. "Beheadings, mass slaughter, and genocide may only be 'cool' so long as the Islamic State is winning on the battlefield," Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, writes. "As it experiences reversals, this imagery may make IS toxic, just as [al-Qaeda in Iraq] eventually became."

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.