A Swedish prosecutor has ruled that flying the Islamic State's black flag is perfectly legal and does not constitute a hate crime, even though the terrorist group strives to kill all non-Muslims and others who oppose its violent brand of Sunni Islam.
According to the Swedish news outlet The Local, prosecutor Gisela Sjövall said last week that she won't be prosecuting a 23-year-old man who posted pictures of the IS flag on his Facebook page in June.
After posting the flag to his social media account, the man, who came to Sweden from Syria, was investigated by police in the town of Laholm on the grounds that he might be guilty of spreading "hate speech" by supporting the flag of the brutal and heinous terrorist outfit.
Sjövall was asked about the situation during an interview with the Swedish news outlet SVT. She came down on the side of free speech, arguing that the man isn't guilty of a hate crime because IS hates everyone and doesn't advocate hatred for any one particular group of people.
"Put simply, one can say that he is expressing contempt for 'all others,' and not against a specific ethnic group," The Local quoted Sjövall as telling SVT.
Although historic hate symbols like the swastika have become notorious signs of hatred toward one particular people group, like the Jews, Sjövall asserted in an interview with the Hallandsposten newspaper that the IS flag hasn't risen to that same level.
"Up until now, we haven't come to that point," The Local quoted her as telling the Swedish newspaper. "That could change in 10 years."
"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 Local reports that Swedish hate speech laws state that images or symbols need to specifically threaten or degrade a particular group of people on the grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation in order for them to be considered symbols of hate.
The man's lawyer, Björn Nilsson, told the Hallandsposten newspaper that the man doesn't support IS but is promoting the flag on his social media page because the black flag is a bigger symbol within Islam, known as the "Banner of the Eagle" or the "Black Standard."
"He claims that this is not an IS flag, but instead a symbol which is used within Islam, and which has been used for many hundreds of years before it was misappropriated by IS," Nilsson was quoted as telling the newspaper.
According to Heavy.com, there have been multiple incarnations of the "Black Standard" or the "Banner of the Eagle" throughout history, with the earliest being traced back to the beginnings of Islam in the seventh century, when the Islamic prophet Muhammad supposedly spread Islamic teachings under the the "Black Standard."
Heavy.com also reports that Muhammad got the idea for the banner tradition from the ancient Romans, which became a major world empire under an eagle banner.