​Feasible vigilance or hysteria? Everyday objects mistaken for ISIS paraphernalia

Reuters / Thaier Al-Sudani
From birthday balloons to nightclub stickers, members of the public have been peeling their eyes around the globe on the look out for potential Islamic State sympathizers. However, despite their best intentions first appearances can be deceiving.

Swedish woman’s birthday balloons mistaken for Islamic State initials

A Swedish woman had a 21st birthday she will never forget as police raided her house. She had hung two balloons to celebrate her age, but when ‘21’ was viewed in reverse, they thought it stood for IS, short for Islamic State.

The balloons had been put up to celebrate Sarah Ericsson’s birthday in February and were noticed by a passerby, who subsequently alerted the police after looking through the window of the house and seeing what they believed was a symbol supporting the Islamist extremists.

The police understood the honest mistake, but law enforcement officers still asked her to take the balloons down to avoid any further confusion.

Italian police mistake black jacket on washing line for ISIS flag

Italian police were called to an apartment building in the east of the country after locals thought an IS sympathizer was secreted in their midst. They had spotted what they believed was an Islamic State black flag flying from a tree next to the building.

Police officers from Porto Recanati searched the building. Upon a closer inspection of the black piece of cloth, it turned out to be a black jacket that had blown onto a tree, rather than a piece of propaganda supporting the terrorist group, Corriere della Sera reported in March.

Indians detained for wearing ‘ISIS’ t-shirts

Two people in their twenties from eastern India were briefly detained by police for wearing t-shirts emblazoned with ‘ISIS Pakistan’. They had taken part in a procession in November to mark Muharram, which is one of the holiest months in Islam.

The duo was taken into custody after their photos appeared in the media, according to NDTV. However, friends of the pair immediately came to their defense saying they were wearing the t-shirts to celebrate the safe release of 46 Indian nurses, who had been released by the terrorist group in Iraq in July.

Black flag covering hole in wall mistaken for ISIS propaganda

Worried residents in northeast London thought their local dry cleaners could be secretly harboring Islamic State fanatics. They had spotted what looked like the terrorist group’s flag through the window of the premises. Their concerns grew after they saw what they believed was a gun lying on the counter, the Daily Mail reported in October.

Two officers went along to investigate, but rather than finding IS jihadists, they simply discovered a black flag, with markings in Arabic. The shop’s manager said it was widely used in the Muslim world and had been pinned up to cover a hole in the wall. The gun? Well, that turned out to be a BB gun, which was left there by the store’s owner.

Australian politician mixes up Perth nightclub emblem for ISIS sticker

An Australian MP in the city of Perth thought he had discovered Islamic State stickers on a bridge urging the terrorist group’s followers to take up arms in November. However, what Liberal MP Luke Simpkins didn’t realize was that the stickers were advertising a local club and had been there for years.

IS emblems and the Speakeasy nightclub are both black and white, but that is where the similarities end, Vice.com reports. The club’s sticker is in English, while the Islamic State’s is in Arabic.

The venue’s event manager Pierce Ericson was quick to dismiss any possible links to the militant group. “We’re more interested in dropping bangers than bombs, but we do hope people attend religiously,” he said.