A pro Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) blog has released a post detailing the potential Bitcoin provides for terrorist funding.
I want to emphasize that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has not proposed using Bitcoin to fund global jihadist efforts.
The majority of ISIS members, the majority of Muslims, and the majority of human beings on the planet Earth have not even yet formed their first cohesive thoughts on Bitcoin.
Many reports that claim that the pro-Bitcoin announcement came directly from ISIS itself have been circulating and causing fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
Very simply, reporting that kind of misinformed causality as fact is irresponsible and damaging to the community. The original suggestion from an anonymous pro-ISIS supporter that ISIS utilize Bitcoin to raise funds from overseas is going to be ignored by the Islamic radicals for not-so-radical reasons.
The “proposal” comes from a pro-ISIS blog (The same way that many, many left-wing and right-wing pro-American blogs suggest things that the government would never conceivably implement), whose owners and operators are anonymous and have a solid command of the English language.
Their language choice is because their pro-Jihad blog is targeted at overseas Muslims, the supposed terrorist crowd-funding network that Bitcoin could re-enable.
Under the incorrect assumption that the piece is directly from ISIS, many Bitcoiners have questioned the English-only release format.
The blog first came to the attention of Tom Cheshire of Sky News; he is also a long time contributor to Wired.uk, who tells me that the blog first came to his attention via some of his pro-ISIS contacts online. Honestly, at this point in the global media coverage on this topic, the authenticity of the blog and blog post, which some in the community still have a bad gut feeling about, is a moot point. The idea that a radical Islamist terrorist-leaning individual might understand Bitcoin and how to use the English language is not absurd at all. However, as Bruce Fenton has pointed out, the constant definition of basic Islamic terms in footnotes suggests the target audience may have been Westerners.
The fear that news media will try and instill in the general public is going to be simple. The suggestion will be made that once terrorists are receiving Bitcoin directly, they will open up a new tab in Tor and buy guns, bombs, and ammunition from Silk Road 2.0. In actuality, one of Silk Road’s largest firearms dealer says most of his business goes to Europe and has gone on record stating that he refuses to sell to anti-American or anti-Israel individuals or groups, both are stances that ISIS stand by. Unfortunately, there are underground vendors on Tor marketplaces that do permit the sale of weapons and even murder-for-hire all in exchange for Bitcoin that might overlook terrorist activity in exchange for cold, hard Bitcoin.
On their end, ISIS has its financials under control and occasionally uses the traditional financial systems, albeit in fringe scenarios. The scattered intelligence available on ISIS suggests that their funding comes from largely illicit activities such as kidnapping and extortion. Recently, ISIS stole $425 million USD worth of Iraqi dinars from a bank, making it the world’s most well-funded terrorist group. ISIS has also seized large amounts of gold bullion and significant amounts of US military hardware left in the area from this decade, or decades ago. By many rights, ISIS is not lacking in cash or commodities.
The pro-ISIS blog, itself, admits that terrorist funding is currently limited to the extremely rich private donors using obscured, but traditional methods that they suggest strengthens the dollar regime. Bitcoin is their proposed solution, but the presumably Muslim writers did not stop to consider a more basic consideration which ISIS invariably will.
Is Bitcoin Sharia Compliant?
If the Caliphate ever publicizes his Bitcoin donation address, the Bitcoin community will undoubtedly have some slight publicity problems; however, you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that day. ISIS is seen as one of the most radical Islamic groups operating in the Middle East. Earlier this year, Al Qaeda severed all ties with ISIS due to conflicting ideals and implementations: Al Qaeda thought that ISIS’s predilection for beheadings was too old school. Simply put, Islamic law, which ISIS follows with zealous fervor, has very specific rules on what is and isn’t to be used as money. On the topic of Bitcoin and Sharia compliance, the expert to refer to is Davi Barker, who has previously written on the subject. According to Davi, Islamic Scholar Imran Hosein has identified six traits of money common to the forms of money explicitly allowed in the Quran:
- Money is either precious metals or food.
- Money is abundant and freely available.
- Money is durable and does not spoil or corrode.
- Money has intrinsic value.
- Money exists in creation and is made valuable by God.
- Money functions as a medium exchange.
Davi argues convincingly that Bitcoin fulfills four or five of these Islamic law requirements while Fiat paper money only fulfills two. Bitcoin enthusiasts are sure that Bitcoin is superior to paper money no matter what religious paradigm adopted; however, it is foolish to expect a self-proclaimed “Caliphate” to bend any of the Quran’s most explicit rules.
It is only a matter of time before a publicity whore of a terrorist group decides to publish a Bitcoin donation address: It probably isn’t going to be ISIS, though. From elsewhere in the world, the extremists that penned the blog probably already consider American services that allowlegal Bitcoin donations to politicians to be eerily analogous to their proposed fundraising system. This single pro-Bitcoin and pro-ISIS blog post has gotten so much attention from Western media; however, its salience is undoubtedly going to be lost on ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
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