As the Sunni extremist group Islamic State continues its barbaric onslaught across Iraq and Syria, occupying territories and beheading soldiers and abducting women, they have managed to make their presence felt audaciously and everyone wants to know who is the ISIS or ISIL.
Given their barbaric acts on almost a routine basis now, it is common to find their name scattered in TV and newspaper headlines, press releases and statements made by world leaders.
However, of late, there is a confusion over the term used to refer to the Sunni extremists. Is it ISIS or ISIL?
ISIS, which is the more widely used term, expands to the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” or the “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham”. The group is a breakaway faction of al Qaeda and aims to build an Islamic State spread across Iraq and Syria and a few other Middle Eastern countries, for the Sunni Muslims.
The ISIS anointed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its Caliph, and declared a Caliphate across occupied parts in June. They are responsible for hundreds of cruel deaths in Iraq and Syria.
Recently they posted a video of beheading of US journalist James Foley, evoking worldwide condemnation.
On the other hand, the acronym ISIL, which is generally used by the US State Department and in UN statements, means the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant".
The Levant is an English term, which in Arabic translates to “al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham", referring to the expanded region that the extremists aim to occupy.
According to an explanation by the Associated Press, the term 'al-Sham' refers to a region stretching from southern Turkey through Syria to Egypt (also including Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan)
"The standard English term for this broad territory is 'the Levant.' Therefore, AP's translation of the group's name is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL," the AP stated.