The militants who are killing civilians, raping and forcing captured women into sexual slavery, and beheading foreigners in Iraq and Syria are known by several names: the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS; the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL; and, more recently, the Islamic State, or IS. French officials recently declared that that country would stop using any of those names and instead refer to the group as “Daesh.”I first heard the term "Daesh" being used by Putin. Now I know why. And I see why the French now want to use it. So should we.
The Obama Administration should switch to this nomenclature, too, because how we talk about this group is central to defeating them.
Whether referred to as ISIS, ISIL, or IS, all three names reflect aspirations that the United States and its allies unequivocally reject. Political and religious leaders all over the world have noted this. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, “This is a terrorist group and not a state. . . the term Islamic State blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims, and Islamists.” President Obama made similar remarks saying, “ISIL is not Islamic . . . and [is] certainly not a state.”
Muslim scholars around the world have denounced the group’s attempt to declare a caliphate. Egyptian Islamic theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi published an open letter to Muslim scholars explaining, “A group simply announcing a caliphate is not enough to establish a caliphate.” The Syrian Sufi leader Muhammad al-Yacoubi called the group’s declaration “illegitimate” and that supporting it was “haram,” or forbidden.
The term “Daesh” is strategically a better choice because it is still accurate in that it spells out the acronym of the group’s full Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. Yet, at the same time, “Daesh” can also be understood as a play on words — and an insult. Depending on how it is conjugated in Arabic, it can mean anything from “to trample down and crush” to “a bigot who imposes his view on others.” Already, the group has reportedly threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone who uses the term.
Why do they care so much? The same reason the United States should. Language matters.
With some 30,000 to 50,000 fighters, Daesh is a relatively small group, and propaganda is central to its growth strategy. Whether hijacking popular Twitter hashtags or using little known distribution channels to post videos to YouTube, their leadership knows that the war of words online is just as key to increasing its power and influence as the actual gruesome acts they commit on the ground.
By using the militants’ preferred names, the US government implicitly gives them legitimacy. But referring to the group as Daesh doesn’t just withhold validity. It also might help the United States craft better policy. [...]
The rest of this article, which is not very long, talks about the many good reasons to be using the name Daesh, and about the many Muslim groups and scholars around the world who know ISIS, ISIL, IS as Daesh. And they oppose Daesh, vehemently, for many reasons. The article has embedded links for many of these Muslim anti-Daesh groups.
Not only is it encouraging to know that these groups and scholars exist, but the article explains why it's important to use the name Daesh, so our allies in the Muslim world know that we understand, using the word from their language, that we share the same concerns about the same people.
"Daesh". I was sold on it at "a bigot who imposes his view on others." Hopefully President Obama will get on board with using this name. If he does, the media will likely follow his lead.
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