What is Khorasan and why is it a threat to US interests?

In the world of Islamist extremist groups, names are very important. A group’s name has to describe who they are, what they stand for, and what their goals are, and it has to do this using only a word or two. With this in mind, what does the name Khorasan mean, and how does it describe the group of Islamist militants that United States officials are saying is now a more direct threat to American interests than the Islamic State?

The name Khorasan refers to a historical region that encompassed most of northeastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Afghanistan. It was established as an official region by the Sasanian dynasty sometime in the 3rd century, the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam in the region. The name literally means “The Land of the Sun”, in reference to its eastern location.

After the region was taken over during the Arab conquests of the 7th century, Khorasan was absorbed by the Umayyad Caliphate, and with that, became a part of early Islamic culture. But that doesn’t explain why an Islamist extremist group would take on the region’s name, so why?

Well, the name Khorasan is also mentioned in a widely discussed, although just as widely disputed, hadith which speaks of how “black banners will come out of Khorasan” in the end times. The region’s historical importance and the fact that it was mentioned in a hadith has made it a popular name for modern Jihadist groups, especially those which are based outside of the Arab states.

“Jihadists deny the legitimacy of most modern nation states; they prefer using historical terms, typically the ones that were used during the time of the great Caliphates which is obviously what they want to go back to,” Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization, explained.

Read more about the story at The Washington Post.

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In the world of Islamist extremist groups, names are very important. A group’s name has to describe who they are, what they stand for, and what their goals are, and it has to do this using only a word or two. With this in mind, what does the name...