“You say tomayto, I say tomahto…“
Remember, folks, Muslims read from right to left, so ISIS to us is SISI (prn. Sissy) to them.
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The Islamic State: is it Isis, Isil – or possibly Daesh?
What should you call the terrifying organisation [sic] that beheads hostages and massacres its opponents? Here we explain a political and lingusitic [sic] minefield.
The Islamic State – aka Isis (in current Guardian house style) – is a scary and much-discussed phenomenon, erasing borders, conquering vast areas of Iraq and Syria, massacring its enemies and beheading hostages in slick snuff and propaganda videos. Barack Obama calls it Isil. David Cameron loyally follows suit. Others refer to Isis or IS. Now Francois Hollande has renamed it Daesh. Confused as to how to negotiate this linguistic and political minefield? You might well be.
This terminological conflict has deep historic and cultural roots. The group originated in 1999 as Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad – quite a mouthful. It got simpler in 2004 when its founder, a Jordanian called Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pledged an oath to al-Qaida, then still being run by Osama bin Laden from his Pakistani hideout. Its Arabic name became Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (don’t ask!) – though that was shortened in English to al-Qaida in Iraq.
But then it got more complicated. In 2006, under a man who now calls himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, it morphed into the Islamic State in Iraq (Isi). In April 2013, two years into the uprising against Bashar al-Assad, Isi bigged itself up as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (Al Dawla al-Islamyia fil Iraq wa’al Sham) and declared a Caliphate – a state for all Muslims. Al-Sham is the historic Arabic name for Syria, Lebanon, and (according to some authorities) Jordan and Palestine. This area is known in English (thanks to the antiquated French phrase for the “lands of the rising sun”) as the Levant. Isis is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Isil is the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant: thus the moniker in Obama’s and Cameron’s briefing books. It’s the same transatlantic solidarity that had London and Washington referring to UBL (Usama Bin Laden) when everyone else used the more familiar OBL (Osama).
Opponents of the term Islamic State say it is neither Islamic nor a state: thus the suggestion of a group of British imams to Cameron that he use the expression “Un-Islamic State.” In a similar legitimacy-undermining vein Egypt’s leading Islamic authority, Dar al-Ifta, urged the media to use the rather heavy-handed QSIS: “Al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria.”
Daesh, now officially adopted by the French government, is the Arabic acronym for Al Dawla al-Islamyia fil Iraq wa’al Sham, (though it should, to be precise, really be rendered as Da’ish). But why the change? It was never golng to be easy for the French EIIL (l’Etat islamique de l’Irak et du Levant) to supplant the more widely used English ISIL or ISIS (cf Nato vs Otan, EU vs UE). And it may, suggested one French blogger, have been chosen for its “sonorité péjorative” (dèche, douche, tache – to be broke, shower, spot). Hollande said he would be using the phrase “Daesh cutthroats”.
IS supporters, in any case, dislike the term Daesh as it does not spell out the crucial Islamic component. In the words of Simon Collis, the British Ambassador to Iraq: “Arabic speakers spit out the name Da’ish with different mixtures of contempt, ridicule and hostility. Da’ish is always negative.” It’s certainly entered the ever-adaptive Arabic language bigtime: in the plural form – “daw’aish” – it means bigots who impose their views on others.
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ISIS vs. ISIL: Why Obama Stands Alone
What’s behind the choice of name of Mideast terror group?
President Obama may have had a difficult time formulating a strategy to deal with the ISIS crisis, yet he alone has been almost obsessively resolute in referring to the group as “ISIL.”
In some of Obama’s briefings on ISIS, he has gone so far as to spell out ISIL.
Puzzling to reporters and pundits, the use of ISIL by Obama has prompted a bevy of theories…} read more…