According to a video posted on YouTube, the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will no longer be accepting new recruits from the United States. This restriction is the result of concerns that Americans will commit mass shootings in ISIS-controlled territory. Americans who have already joined ISIS will be allowed to stay, but any new arrivals with American passports will be turned away.
The video, which was uploaded on Sunday evening, features a group of about a dozen men wearing black balaclavas, holding weapons and ISIS flags in an undisclosed location. During the video, one man speaks in Arabic directly into the camera, while the others silently stare straight ahead. The video lasts just over three and a half minutes.
The video describes the surprisingly high frequency with which mass shootings – defined as incidents of gun violence in which more than four people are killed – occur in the United States. In the last three years, there have been over 1000 mass shootings in the United States, nearly one incident every day. According to the video, Americans “must have some sort of sickness in their culture that causes this barbarity. That sickness cannot be permitted to infect the Caliphate.”
Given ISIS’s notoriously violent and gruesome methods, it is surprising that mass shootings would be of particular concern. This point was addressed explicitly in the video. “Of course, we understand and respect the use of violence to achieve important goals,” said the masked man who spoke during the video. “However when ISIS uses violence, it is a tool that’s used to help us survive an existential struggle against a world of wickedness. Mass shootings are different. They are expressions of futile frustration that end in pointless suicide. This is antithetical to the holy pursuit of purity through a world-wide Islamic State. As members of ISIS, we have a multi-front war to wage, air strikes to evade, beheading videos to post, and we’re now even posting cat videos. We don’t have the mental space worry about some nihilist Yankee shooting up our kids while they’re at school. Ain’t nobody in ISIS got time for that.”
The video does acknowledge that the percentage of Americans who commit mass shootings is “very small,” but goes on to note that ISIS does not have the means to conduct the comprehensive screening that would be required to distinguish people legitimately fleeing America’s culture of senseless violence from those who might carry out a mass shooting. “Even American law enforcement is totally unable to predict and prevent these senseless attacks,” said the man in the video. “And that’s with constant mass-surveillance of their whole population.”
Political leaders from both the Republican and Democratic Parties have condemned the video. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump said that ISIS’s “irrational fear of all Americans, just because we’ve got a small handful of kooks, shows their commitment to bigotry and small-mindedness.” The National Rifle Association also released a statement, in which they took credit for “promoting the lax gun laws which are now keeping Americans safely out of ISIS’s hands.”