ISIS may have easily defeated the Iraqi Army at Mosul, but the group now has a new foe that will likely prove much more challenging: Nike. Yep, the American sportswear company has now been banned by ISIS, according to fliers the terror group distributed last week.
Why ban Nike? Could it be that ISIS struck a sponsorship deal with Puma or Adidas? I can see the commercials now: An ISIS fighter playing basketball, complete with an AK-47 over his shoulder. The scoreboard shows the game tied with only seconds remaining. The ISIS fighter grabs the basketball and quickly takes a shot with one second left on the clock. It goes in winning the game. He then turns to the camera and excitedly exclaims, “Puma Akbar!”
But no, it has nothing to do with a sponsorship deal. ISIS is worried about Nike for two reasons. First, as noted in the ISIS flier written in Arabic: “Beware young men of dangerous foreign words and symbols that the non believers have on our clothes.” You know, the typical “West is bad” BS.
The second—and real—reason, say many, is much more comical. The word “Nike” in Arabic means “fucking” when pronounced as Nike without the long “e” sound that we add for the sneaker company. And while the ISIS’ flier doesn’t note this, “air,” the generic English word so closely associated with the sneaker brand since the days of Michael Jordan, in many Arabic dialects means “penis.” So “Nike Air” translates into “fucking penis.” (And yes, I apologize to my fellow Arab Americans for teaching people Arabic curse words.)
But ISIS is now also banning many more “dirty words” from appearing on apparel. And we are talking way different words than the seven dirty ones George Carlin famously joked about. So now, per ISIS, clothing can’t include words like “bitch,” “cupid,” “flirt” “hussy,” or my favorite, “Take me.” For some reason the idea of a person wearing a shirt that reads “Take me” in ISIS-controlled territory seems both hilarious and insane.
ISIS, apparently not wanting to make life unbearably challenging for merchants, explained that businesses could still sell products that bear trademarks of foreign companies or foreign images as long as they don’t cause people to worship non-believers. For example, a shirt with Justin Bieber’s image would be banned. (Thankfully.) But I have to wonder whether a shirt with a photo of Shaquille O’Neil or Mike Tyson– both converted Muslims, though decidedly not of the ISIS variety – would be cool with the ISIS gang?
So how is the new ISIS ban on Nike being received? Surprisingly it’s getting push back by some ISIS supporters. One wrote on Twitter that Nike sneakers are not worn because of its connection to haram (forbidden) concepts but because of their “comfort and quality.” (I think Nike might just have a new pitchman.)
Now to those in ISIS who really want to keep wearing Nike—like ISIS’ Iraqi commander Abu Waheeb, who has been photographed wearing the American sneakers—history tells us there is a chance that ISIS will rescind its new edict. After all In December 2014, ISIS banned cigarette smoking, claiming that it was somehow unIslamic. (You truly don’t get more ironic that having ISIS – the most unIslamic group ever - claiming things are unIslamic.)
Well, talk about not knowing your audience. This cigarette ban didn’t sit well with many in Iraq. And those who have ever visited the Arab world can vouch for the fact that cigarette smoking for many is part of their DNA. For example, a few years ago when visiting the region, I went to workout in a gym in Amman, Jordan and there was an ashtray on a treadmill.
Apparently ISIS must have felt the heat because within a few months of its proclamation, ISIS reportedly lifted the cigarette ban in parts of Iraq.
But on the other hand ISIS has so far held strong on its ban of “skinny jeans” for men. Reportedly the problem was that these jeans made the men too sexually attractive and distracting—to other men, that is. Sounds like some of the ISIS leaders might just be fighting certain feelings deep down and those skinny jeans weren’t helping.
It's interesting how religious conservatives – be they in Middle East or the United States- share certain philosophies. Both are obsessed with gays. And both want to impose laws based on their respective religious beliefs. And no, I’m not saying that all American conservatives would support killing gays like ISIS has; but clearly at least a few radical American Christian clerics agree that executing gays is the proper punishment mandated by the Bible.
Will ISIS succeed in its ban on Nike? Only time will tell. But there’s no doubt that the unIslamic leaders of ISIS will continue to randomly ban words, jeans, breeding pigeons (which they have) and anything else that stands in the way of their political objectives. I just hope that more of my fellow Americans will finally grasp that’s what ISIS is truly about.