A jihadist by any other name?


From the very moment that Islamic State, the violent jihadist group that has overrun parts of Syria and Iraq, startled the world this summer with its rapid territorial advance, the debate on what to call the outfit has been as vociferous as the discussion on how they could be tackled militarily.

While the administration of U.S. President Barack has dug in its heels to back the “ISIL” acronym, which expands to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and another official moniker in the West has been “ISIS,” or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, it was France that this week threw down the gauntlet this week.

According to an official statement released by Paris, French officialdom will now refer to the group under a different name, and one that they are said to abhor, “Daesh.”

“This is a terrorist group and not a state,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was quoted saying to media last week, and he added, “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.’”

Mr. Obama has also lashed out at the militant group’s self-proclaimed name-switch from ISIS/ISIL to “Islamic State.”

In a speech outlining a more aggressive approach against IS last week he said that they were neither Islamic, for “no religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim,” and nor did they represent a state, given that it was formerly an al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, and is “recognised by no government, nor the people it subjugates, [but] is a terrorist organisation, pure and simple…”

According to historian Pieter van Ostaeyen the word ‘Daesh’ “is a transliteration of… an acronym for al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, which is itself a transliteration of the group's Arabic name.”

Yet, as some media reported this week, the group reportedly “hate[s] the moniker,” and “were threatening to cut out the tongues of anyone who used the phrase publicly,” especially as the term “Daeshi” is sometimes used a derogatory term in some parts of West Asia for its connotation of “trampled down” or “crushed.”

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 1:24:42 AM |

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