Somalia’s religious affairs ministry has banned the use of the name al-Shabab – “the youth” in Arabic – and asked the public to refer to the militant group as “Khawarij”, a derogatory term meaning a deviant sect.
In a statement, the ministry also prohibited clerics from dealing with the al-Qaeda-allied militants or meeting them.
The government said the directive to brand al-Shabab as “Khawarij” was part of the war against the group.
It is not the first time the Somali government has coined another name for al-Shabab.
In 2015 the government told the media to refer to the militant group as “Ugus”, a Somali acronym for “the group that massacres the Somali people”.
In response, the al-Shabab threatened to punish anyone, including journalists, who obeyed government directives or used the term.
Last month, the federal authorities banned local media outlets from reporting on al-Shabab activities.