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The group's declaration of a new caliphate in June 2014 and its adoption of the name "Islamic State" have been criticised and ridiculed by Muslim scholars and rival Islamists both inside and outside the territory it controls.
In a speech in September 2014, United States President Barack Obama said that ISIL is neither "Islamic" (on the basis that no religion condones the killing of innocents) nor is it a "state" (in that no government recognises the group as a state), and other countries generally call the group "ISIL", while much of the Arab world uses the Arabic acronym "Dāʻish" (or "Daesh").
ISIL is believed to be operational in 18 countries across the world, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, with "aspiring branches" in Mali, Egypt, Somalia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.
although – and to a certain extent because – it is considered derogatory, as it resembles the Arabic words Daes ("one who crushes, or tramples down, something underfoot") and Dāhis (loosely translated: "one who sows discord").
Security and intelligence expert Martin Reardon has described ISIL's purpose as being to psychologically "break" those under its control, "[...] so as to ensure their absolute allegiance through fear and intimidation," while generating, "[...]outright hate and vengeance" among its enemies.
Its efforts to terrorise are intended to intimidate civilian populations and force governments of the target enemy "to make rash decisions that they otherwise would not choose".
and upon proclaiming a new caliphate on 29 June, the group appointed al-Baghdadi as its caliph.
Videos from the group's territory have shown Wahhabi texts plastered on the sides of an official missionary van. Kirkpatrick |source=The New York Times According to The Economist, dissidents in the former ISIL capital of Raqqa report that "all 12 of the judges who now run its court system ... Saudi practices also followed by the group include the establishment of religious police to root out "vice" and enforce attendance at salat prayers, the widespread use of capital punishment, and the destruction or re-purposing of any non-Sunni religious buildings.
ISIL aims to return to the early days of Islam, rejecting all innovations in the religion, which it believes corrupts its original spirit.
It condemns later caliphates and the Ottoman Empire for deviating from what it calls pure Islam, and seeks to revive the original Wahhabi project of the restoration of the caliphate governed by strict Salafist doctrine.
For example, ISIL regards the Palestinian Sunni group Hamas as apostates who have no legitimate authority to lead jihad and see fighting Hamas as the first step toward confrontation by ISIL with Israel.
One difference between ISIL and other Islamist and jihadist movements, including al-Qaeda, is the group's emphasis on eschatology and apocalypticism – that is, a belief in a final Day of Judgment by God, and specifically, a belief that the arrival of one known as Imam Mahdi is near.