Senior News Editor of Yahoo! Maktoob Arabic Nasry Esmat explains the meaning of the flag held up by people taken hostage in a Lindt cafe in Sydney's Martin Place by an alleged gunman, and why it is different to the flag waved by Islamic State.
The flag raised by hostages in Sydney café is written in Arabic language and says “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”, which is the basic statement of belief in Islam.
This statement is used by different Islamic groups such as the Jabhat Al-Nusra (the Nusra Front), the Islamic group fighting against Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram in Nigeria and even in national flags such as Saudi Arabia official flag and different versions of Afghanistan flag between 1992 and 2001.
The statement is not hostile in nature and is widely used by Muslims in their daily lives and in Islamic events and prayers.
The reason jihadist groups use this statement is because they see themselves as Islam representatives and main defenders, and they believe that the religious bond between their members is the reason for their unity more than nationality, race or origin.
They also use it because it was used in campaigns to spread Islam in the time of Prophet Muhammad.
The flag used in Martin Place is different to the kind used by Islamic State in font and shape, even though it has the same message.
The Islamic State flag is black with white text, which says “There is no God but Allah” (Image 1).
It also has a white circle that contains the rest of the statement, which is “Muhammad is his messenger”.
While the Jabhat Al-Nusra (Image 2) flag is slightly more similar to the flag held in the Lindt café, it is black and has the statement, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger” and the Jabhat Al-Nusra name written underneath it.
The only difference between this flag the one held in the Martin Place Lindt café is that the flag held by hostages in the Lindt café does not feature the Jabhat Al-Nusra name.
The Saudi Arabia flag (Image 3) is green and has the same statement written in the same font as the flag held in the Lindt café window.
The flag raised in Sydney can represent any Islamic or Jihadist group.
For general information about the siege at Martin place – call the Public Information and Inquiry Centre: 1800 227 228
To report any suspicious activities – call the National Security Hotline: 1800 1234 00
For transport updates – call: 131 500
For emergencies – call: 000
Morning news break – December 15