France has struck the latest courageous blow against ISIS by… calling it by a different name. If you’re confused by ISIS and ISIL and Al Qaeda in Iraq and Those Headchopping Guys Who Have Nothing to Do With Islam… here’s another one.
The French government has come up with an answer to a point of persistent journalistic confusion – how exactly does one refer to the Islamic State organisation brutally carving out a self-declared “caliphate” in Syria and northern Iraq?
From now on the French foreign ministry will be calling it Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS or the Islamic State group.
Last week, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius asked journalists and media organisations to do the same.
He said: “This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats’.”
That solves… nothing.
Daesh is just an acronym for Islamic State. It has a derogatory connotation and ISIS hates it, but it still ultimately represents Islamic State.
So France’s Fabius won’t call it the Islamic State, he’ll call it the Islamic State.
It’s like the United States abbreviation Warsaw Pact as Warpac. It’s still the same thing. The only advantage is that it confuses Westerners for whom Daesh has no Islamic connotation because they aren’t Arabic speakers.
And that seems to be the real purpose of these games, to avoid linking ISIS to Islam. I don’t know how likely the French are to use Daesh, but they’ll have even worse luck getting Americans to use Daesh than they had getting them to use ISIL.
There’s something self-defeating about employing an Arabic acronym that is incomprehensible to non-Arabic speakers instead of an English translation of it even though we routinely do it with Hamas and other terrorist groups.
By sticking to a foreign language, we make it harder for people to understand what these groups are and what they stand for. Because Islam is always in there somewhere.
For example Hezbollah means the Party of Allah. Hamas stands for Harakat Mukawamah Islamiyah. Both Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in Iraq had Jihad in their names.
It’s not a coincidence that the versions of these names widely used by the media obscure any obvious Islamic connotations.
ISIS has Islam in it in a very obvious way. Daesh is incomprehensible to a Westerner. Expect efforts to rename ISIS to something illegibly non-Islamic to begin moving forward more aggressively soon.
September 26, 2014 by Daniel Greenfield
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.