Should We Call ISIS "Daesh"? The Terrorist Group Hates The Term, But World Leaders Believe It's Fitting
Since the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, French President Francois Hollande has referred to the Islamic State as "Daesh," and President Obama has used the term interchangeably with his former preferred term, ISIL. So which is it? Should we be calling the Islamic State Daesh? Well, if you consider the group to be a lot of murderous extremists that needs to be stopped, the answer would be yes.
"Daesh" comes from an acronym made from the Arabic version of the group's name, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In Arabic, that's "لدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام" (or written in Roman script: "al-dowla al-islaamiyya fii-il-i’raaq wa-ash-shaam"). So the acronym becomes Daesh, pronounced "dash" and also written as Da'ish. To Arabic speakers, the term is derogatory because it sounds like other words, including dahes, which means "sower of discord," and daes, which means "someone who tramples something underfoot."
The reason France has used the term, according to the Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, is that calling the group "the Islamic State" or "ISIS" could be misconstrued to connect Muslim people to the extremist group. "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," Fabius has said. He said he would personally use the term "Daesh cutthroats."
Since France's change to using Daesh, both Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama have used it. Kerry did so first at a meeting on the Syria conflict in Vienna, and Obama later did it at the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey. Obama, however, used "ISIL" too. "Turkey has been a strong partner with the United States and other members of the coalition in going after the activities of ISIL, or Daesh, both in Syria and Iraq," he said at the conference.
At the same conference, Obama sat down with Russian President Vladimir Putin to work out a negotiated solution to the Syrian war. Before the French attacks and downing of the Russian plane in Egypt, Putin had been a big supporter of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The two reportedly agreed to a "Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition," which would include United Nations-led negotiations and a ceasefire.
Regardless of what Western leaders think, there's one more reason to use Daesh. It infuriates the group. They have threatened to cut out the tongue of anyone who uses it. Which means everyone can fight back linguistically against Daesh, with simple terminology.