The militant Islamic extremist group popularly referred to as ISIS have purportedly been caught in a state of blatant hypocrisy regarding their views on marijuana use. The group is currently in the headlines for taking ownership of strategic acts of terrorism on the cities of Beirut and Paris at the end of last week. While the world remains baffled and disgusted by such senseless acts of violence, the bombings and shootings that ISIS executed are not the first time the Islamic State’s message has been distorted by their actions. Ultimately, ISIS claims that all of their efforts are guiding a global conversion to specifically radical Muslim religious beliefs. This violently strict approach to the Muslim religion has found ISIS railing against marijuana use. Yet, this drug war is simply another facet of the Islamic State’s grotesque terrorism, smacking of a hypocrisy so familiar in America’s own drug war.
The Flimsy Foundation of the ISIS Drug War
In most Middle Eastern countries, drug laws are strict and carry severe penalties up to and including the death penalty. While one could point to the Middle East’s colorful traditions and history involving the use of marijuana and hashish, the same could be said for the United States’ little talked about history cultivating vital hemp crops. While the prohibition of marijuana is under heavy debate in the U.S. for punishments that seem archaic in light of the crimes, the Middle East’s drug war often involves caning and, in certain cases, the death penalty, regardless of the type of drug. ISIS claims to have adopted this zero tolerance policy, viewing marijuana as a spiritually destructive substance akin to the hardest drugs on the black market. While hard claims built on a lack of logic are par for the course for bloody faith-based crusades, ISIS truly falters by miserably failing to practice what they preach.
Hypocrisy in the Cannabis Fields
In April 2015, a Lebanese farmer admitted to The Daily Beast
that he had been selling a lot
of cannabis to ISIS recruits. How much is a lot? According to the farmer, ISIS purchased “one ton” of the drug they were so fervently denouncing. Though this farmer had lost family to the extremists and vowed violent revenge on the militants, he felt compelled to do business with the terrorist group. But what would make a simple farmer risk his life by selling highly illegal cannabis amidst a drug war to his mortal enemies who are upholding said drug war?
Many farmers caught up in the war zone have been forced to take the risk of selling cannabis to whoever’s buying. While a farmer in Lebanon could once make a living exporting legal produce to Turkey and Jordan via the trade roads passing through Syria, war has now rendered those routes off limits. Trapped in these war zones with only access to extremist fighters, farmers are finding that dealing weed to terrorists is their only option for survival.
ISIS’s Public Denouncement of Marijuana
Of course, ISIS doesn’t want to compromise their public image by appearing to condone drug use so they hold fast to their drug war ideals. A video recorded by the Islamic State and published in 2014 shows extremists setting a marijuana field ablaze
and chasing the destruction by smashing a few bottles of liquor. ISIS feels that Islamic law forbids mind-altering substances in all forms, even speaking out against legal drugs like cigarettes. However, if reports are to be believed, the already controversial messages of ISIS are further weakened by their hypocritical tokes, betraying that their terrorist activities extend beyond religious zealotry.
Naturally, the Islamic State’s views on marijuana are not nearly as crucial a concern as their human rights violations and disgusting acts of violence. Yet, it’s still important to analyze this terrorist structure from every angle. Here, we find a drug war that finds militants burning fields of cannabis with one hand while passing a joint with the other, further confusing the extremists’ already convoluted message. It should come as no surprise. Messages delivered in blood aren’t often remembered for their legibility.