Fall of Dabiq deprives Islamic State of major propaganda tool (News Analysis)

New Delhi, Oct 17 (IANS) The capture of Dabiq village in Syria by the Turkish-backed fighters over the weekend would deprive the Islamic State (IS) of a very significant propaganda tool it used to recruit Muslims.

The terrorist group had projected the tiny township as the location for a “decisive and apocalyptic” battle against Western Christian armies.

Dabiq, a Syrian village, that lies about 40 km northeast of Aleppo, is around 10 km south of the country’s border with Turkey. It fell, apparently, after a little resistance from Islamic State fighters.

Dabiq was so important to the Islamic State in luring young Muslim men and women that it had named its English-language propaganda magazine after the village.

The glossy magazine, also published in several languages, is mainly aimed at Western audiences with write-ups on tawheed (oneness of God), minhaj (the righteous path), hijrah (migration) and jihad.

One of the first issues of Dabiq, with a cover story on “The Return of Khilafah”, came out in November 2014, shortly after a gruesome video was released by the terror group showing the beheading of Peter Kassig, an American aid worker.

The group claimed that Kassig, 26, was killed in Dabiq and the village was chosen because of its significance in Islamic end-of-time prophecies.

The prophecy is about the time and place where Imam Mahdi, Islam’s messianic figure, and “Hazrat Eisaa (Jesus) will break the cross and bring victory over those who oppose sharia” or the Islamic law.

“Here we are, burying the first American Crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive. We are waiting for you in Dabiq,” an Islamic State speaker said in the video of Kassig’s killing, available online.

The Islamic State repeatedly challenged the Western forces to send ground troops to the area and fight the “decisive battle”.

The group, which captured the village in 2014, a year before it announced its expansion into Syria, lured thousands of Muslim men and women, mostly from Europe and other Western nations, telling them the Islamic State was fulfilling the Islamic prophecy.

The village features in Islamic studies of the “Judgment Day” that would herald after a decisive showdown between Muslims and their “Roman” enemies.

Muslims believe that Prophet Mohammed said that “the last hour will not come” until Muslims vanquish the Romans at “Dabiq” on their way to conquer Constantinople or the modern-day Istanbul.

According to the Washington-based Clarion Project that studies Islamic extremism, the Islamist group’s interpretation of the prophecy rested on the capture of Dabiq, the arrival of US ground forces, the uniting of Muslims behind the Islamic State and military victory over the US and its allies in the area.

But the myth may have given way to military realities of the battle Islamic State is fighting.

Ahmed Osman, a member of the rebel Free Syrian army, was quoted by the Western news agencies as saying that the Islamic State’s myth “of their great battle in Dabiq is finished.”

(Sarwar Kashani can be reached at sarwar.k@ians.in)



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