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POULSEN: IS, ISIS, ISIL and Daesh: Naming the enemy

Image Credit: Chuck Poulsen
November 19, 2015 - 8:12 AM

It is not entirely sarcastic to ask how we're going to defeat an enemy when we can't even decide what to call them.

Let's start by refusing to call them what they prefer to be called: The Islamic State (IS).

They prefer that brand because it denotes a state led by a supreme religious and political leader, known as a caliph. The caliph's state government is a caliphate. A worldwide caliphate is the concept of a single Muslin one-world government.

So then, ISIL, ISIS or the newest one: Daesh.

U.S. President Obama, and Prime Minister Trudeau, call the terrorists ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Levant is a historical term for the region around Syria and includes Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

The acronym ISIS comes from the group's invasion of Syria and stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS is the most commonly used, or at least it gets by far the most Google hits.

In describing the Paris attacks, French President François Hollande said the killing "was waged by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, by Daesh, against France."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also refers to the terrorists group as Daesh.

Obama says ISIL and Kerry says Daesh, suggesting they might not talk to each other much.

The full name for Daesh in Arabic is transliterated as: al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham. The acronym is DAIISH but it's spelled Daesh in English, French etc. (Transliterated is a word too, meaning to write words or letters in the characters of another alphabet. You bet, I had to look it up).

To further complicate things, Daesh might be pronounced "Day-esh" or "Day-sh." On one Internet pronunciation site, the speaker sounds like he's saying "Dash."

Nevertheless, it's spoken in English to sound like the Arabic word "dahes," which is translated as "one who sows discord."

The terrorists don't like that connotation and banned the use of Daesh in its territory.

So some authorities are moving to the derogatory Daesh, which doesn't imply that the group is either a real government or legitimately Islamic.

Over 100 British MPs wrote in defence of Daesh to the BBC, stating:
"Islamic State, ISIL, and ISIS [give] legitimacy to a terrorist organization that is not Islamic nor has it been recognized as a state,"

The BBC rejected the argument, probably just because it's against a rule for the media to do anything politicians tell it to do.

This all sound like Inspector Clouseau is in charge of communications.

But if Daesh is the most offensive thing we can call the terrorists, then let it be Daesh.

— Chuck Poulsen can be contacted at poulsenc30@hotmail.com

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