Islamic State (IS) is imposing a harsh set of rules on residents of areas it controls in Syria and Iraq during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan that began Monday.
These rules include forbidding the use of satellite TV receivers, limiting the hours of daily work and instituting strict dress codes for women.
IS recently conducted a campaign encouraging people in Syria and Iraq to destroy their television receivers "because they promote a psychological war against the caliphate."
In a video that circulated among IS followers online, an IS figure talks about "the vices that television channels are bringing to the homes of Muslims which serve the enemy."
In Raqqa, the IS de facto capital in Syria, IS has carried out a door-to-door search campaign to confiscate satellite television receivers and other streaming devices, according to Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, a group that reports on IS abuses in Syria.
The activist group also said that IS has issued a new ruling that limits working hours each day to only two hours. The remaining hours of the day must be devoted to worshipping and prayer, it said.
In Iraq, IS militants vow to stop civilians at checkpoints in Mosul, saying they will only be released if they surrender their television receivers, local news reports in Iraq said.
‘Dos and don’ts’
Life is very tough for people under IS control during the holy month, officials say.
"Last Friday, imams in Mosul gave instructions to people on ‘dos and don'ts’ during Ramadan and Eid," said Ismat Rajab, a former local government official in Mosul. This year, the holiday month ends on July 5, and is celebrated with a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr.
He said IS religious police in Iraq's second-largest city have forced restaurants and pastry shops to close during the day. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk.
Muslim scholars say IS is using Ramadan to further its radical religious views.
Push against West
IS "doesn't differentiate between Ramadan and other months of the year," said Sheikh Mohammed Sharaffadine, a scholar of Azhar University, one of the most prestigious Islamic institutions in the world.
"But during Ramadan, they want to prove to their followers that they are more pious than other Muslims," he told VOA via phone from Cairo.
IS says it wants to spread its violent, anti-West ideology during Ramadan. In an audio message allegedly recorded last month by IS spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the group calls on its followers to launch attacks in the United States and Europe during Ramadan.
"Ramadan, the month of conquest and jihad. Get prepared, be ready ... to make it a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers ... especially for the fighters and supporters of the caliphate in Europe and America," read the message, suggesting attacks on both military and civilian targets.
In another internet video, an IS narrator offers historical examples of Islamic conquests since the seventh century.
"By such propaganda, they don't only target their sympathizers," Saraffadine said of IS. "They also want to embroil ordinary Muslims in Western countries who live in those societies peacefully."