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What’s there in a name: Rechristening Islamic State as Daish

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By Gaurav Sharma

The territorial and political entity which has wreaked havoc on large swathes of Syria and Iraq since the last decade has assumed many monikers through its barbaric and rapid rise.

Preferring to be earlier known by names such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS), al-Nusra Front etc., the terror outfit since June 2014 has branded itself as the Islamic State.

The appellation was undertaken by the group to highlight and give precedence to the caliphate’s claim of representing military, religious and political authority of Muslims all over the world.

This would help in establishing the group as a sovereign, independent and borderless unit under the self-styled khalif Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Furthermore, the idea behind the name was to underscore the point that with the expansion of its troops on different countries, the legality of all emirates, organizations, groups and states would become null and void.

To prevent the group from staking and propagating to such an ideology, countries all over the world are now rubbishing the name and instead calling it through its Arab acronym, Daesh or DAISH–a title which the group hates to be called as.

One might ask what is in a name, especially because it is the activities of a unit that define it and not the name itself.

Since the group is in expansion mode, the name is part of a broader branding exercise akin to commercial advertisements. The more appealing and sentimentally valuable the name, greater would be the galvanization of recruitment.

In the case of Islamic State, its leaders and followers want to promote the unit as a successor to Islamic Khilafat, established after the death of Prophet Muhammed in 632 AD.

The epoch was witness to long period of Islamic rule, first under the Arab leadership and subsequently under the Ottoman Empire, finally withering into oblivion after the establishment of the modern Turkish state.

However, time and again calls for reinstating the Khilafat under the tutelage of al-Qaeda and Hizb ut-Tahir, have arisen with a view to rule the world under an umbrella leadership, though not with much success.

Islamic State wishes to change the dismal track record. And that is the precise reason why it chooses to be known as the Islamic State.

Moreover, the term DAISH is looked upon as a denigrating term by the terror outfit.

Nonetheless, the name is more suitable and rather synonymous with the modus operandi of the group. Dais, the etymological term for DAISH means “one who sows discord” or “one who crushes something underfoot”, an apt description of the brazen, brutal way by which the Islamic State operates.

Another fact which adds to the credibility and accuracy of DAISH as the moniker for the terror group is the fact that most Muslim governments and organizations have denounced the IS as being antithetical to the way the previous Khilafat worked, viz. peaceful and humane methods.

Most Muslim scholars and clerics have dubbed the organization as “fake”. Politicians have called it “an apocalyptic death cult”.

Keeping in mind Islam as a religion, it would be insulting and abhorrent to term the terror outfit’s Caliphate mission as “Islamic”. More than that, it would be far from the truth.

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US Backed Fighters Say, ‘They Have Taken Position in Islamic State Enclave in Syria’

The enclave resembles an encampment, filled with stationary vehicles and rough shelters with blankets or tarpaulins that could be seen flapping in the wind during a lull in fighting as people walked among them

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Fire is seen during fighting in the Islamic State's final enclave, in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria March 17, 2019. VOA

U.S.-backed fighters said they had taken positions in Islamic State’s last enclave in eastern Syria and air strikes pounded the tiny patch of land beside the Euphrates River early on Monday, a Reuters journalist said.

Smoke rose over the tiny enclave as warplanes and artillery bombarded it. Another witness said the jihadists had earlier mounted a counter attack.

“Several positions captured and an ammunition storage has been blown up,” said Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, on Twitter late on Sunday.

The enclave resembles an encampment, filled with stationary vehicles and rough shelters with blankets or tarpaulins that could be seen flapping in the wind during a lull in fighting as people walked among them.

Backed by air power and special forces from a U.S.-led coalition, the SDF has pushed Islamic State from almost the entire northeastern corner of Syria, defeating it in Raqqa in 2017 and driving it to its last enclave at Baghouz last year.

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The Islamic State group’s last pocket of territory in Baghouz, Syria, as seen from a distance on Sunday, March 17, 2019. VOA

But while its defeat at Baghouz will end its control of populated land in the third of Syria and Iraq that it captured in 2014, the group will remain a threat, regional and Western officials say.

The SDF has waged a staggered assault on the enclave, pausing for long periods over recent weeks to allow surrendering fighters, their families and other civilians to pour out.

Since Jan. 9, more than 60,000 people have left the enclave, about half of them surrendering Islamic State supporters including some 5,000 fighters, the SDF said on Sunday.

People leaving the area have spoken of harsh conditions inside, under coalition bombardment and with supplies of food so scarce some resorted to eating grass.

Last month, the SDF said it had found a mass grave in an area it captured.

Still, many of those who left Baghouz have vowed their allegiance to the jihadist group, which last week put out a propaganda film from inside the enclave calling on its supporters to keep faith.

Suicide attacks on Friday targeted families of Islamic State fighters attempting to leave the enclave and surrender, killing six people, the SDF said.

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Late on Sunday, the Kurdish Ronahi TV station aired footage showing a renewed assault on the enclave, with fires seen to be raging inside and tracer fire and rockets zooming into the tiny area.

The SDF and the coalition say the Islamic State fighters inside Baghouz are among the group’s most hardened foreign fighters, though Western countries believe its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has left the area. (VOA)