The cult of barbarians guilty of mass
execution of innocents, rape, sexual slavery, and countless other repulsive atrocities
in Iraq and Syria are known by a few self-declared names: the Islamic State in
Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and, most
recently, simply the Islamic State (IS).
However, we should be rejecting ISIS, ISIL, or IS because all three names reflect the terrorist group’s intentions, which the United States and our allies wholeheartedly reject.
French officials declared that France would exclusively refer to the group as “Daesh,” which is the acronym of the group’s full Arabic name: al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, and, conveniently, also an insulting play on words. According to various sources, it can mean “to trample down and crush” or “a bigot who imposes his view on others.”
It’s obvious the group cares quite a bit about what people call them: Daesh has reportedly threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone who uses the term.
Daesh understands that in the sphere of public relations, language matters and the US does, too. Therefore, the Obama Administration, our news outlets, and the American public in general should switch to “Daesh,” because how we talk about this group is a key to defeating it.
Daesh is a terrorist group, not a state. Just because Daesh declared itself a caliphate does not mean it has truly established one. Propaganda is central to its growth strategy and the war of words should therefore be as much of a key to destroying it as airstrikes and military operations.
By using the militants’ preferred names, the US government gives them legitimacy. Let’s stop doing that.
Changing what we call them will, over time, do some damage to its image and the cancerous and delusional ideas it seeks to spread.