Forget ‘ISIS’: Say Daesh


The terrorist group that calls itself several things, including “The Islamic State,” is upset that France and others have decided to not give either of those names credibility, and will instead refer to this terrorist organization as ‘Daesh’. With good reason: France’s decision is based on logic very close to that of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently declared in a Congressional hearing that “they are terrorists; They are not a state.”

He said as much in a session broadcast on December 4 by CBS, in which reporter Lara Logan noted that “most Arabic-speaking people have always referred to ISIS as Daesh.”

“Daesh” is the Arabic pronunciation of the acronym for ISIS – the Islamic State in Syria – Dawlat Al Islam fi Iraq Wa al-Sham – CBS News’ Jennifer Janisch explained in the same report.

Huffington Post put it this way: “Daesh” is an acronym for the Arabic phrase meaning the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (though the last word can also be translated as “Damascus” or “Levant”), and it is thought to offend the extremist group because it sounds similar to an Arabic word for crushing something underfoot.”

Few would deny this group is attempting to crush everything underfoot.

While they are busy taking pretty much whatever they want, including lots of lives, I see no reason why they should be given the benefit of being called what they prefer to be called: A state. Daesh is not a state, but more the state of mind of a singularly nasty,  frighteningly well organized bunch of terrorists.

Some of them are believed to be true believers of what they think the Quran says – particularly the killing by Muslims of infidels, or non-believers. Others among the terrorists are said to be participating in vicious, hateful crimes against innocent people – such as those who died and were injured in last week’s ‘incident’ in San Bernardo CA and several attacks earlier in the month in Paris – are engaged more for ‘the fun of it’ than in support of strong beliefs of any sort.

Like the Bible, the Torah, the Mishnah and virtually all other ‘holy texts’, the Quran can be interpreted in any number of ways, in part because, like the Bible and similarly ancient texts, it has been repeatedly revised (and re-, re- and re-translated from the original Arabic) over the centuries, since the seventh, when Islam began. And, as the ‘interpreted’ reference (above) notes, there is evidence that some of what’s in the Quran appeared earlier in the Bible!

In a recent ‘Road Map’ program on MSNBC, Graeme Wood, who wrote ‘What ISIS Wants’ for The Atlantic, argued that Daesh “has its own council of scholars, [which] has its own strange, fringe interpretations, and they are looking at Islamic text in a scholarly way; It’s a way that is being [widely] rejected, but it is being [studied] in a scholarly way.”

On the same program, Mehdi Hasan of Al Jeezera America and The New Statesman, disagreed that anyone associated with Daesh deserves to be called a scholar, and declared that MI5, Britain’s massive security agency, “studied dozens and hundreds of these guys and found that it was religious novices, the guys who buy ‘Islam for Dummies’ from who go out and fight; it tends to be people who have had a very bad background in drugs, and alcohol and petty crime; it’s not people with religious training. MI5 found, in fact, that a strong religious tradition is a great protector against radicalization.”

Hardly nation-builders!

Didier Francois, a French journalist who was held captive for ten months by Daesh told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier this year that his captors “cared little about religion; There was never really discussion about texts or – it was not a religious discussion; It was a political discussion.”

There’s a strong case to be made that all U.S. media, and all media everywhere, and all government entities anywhere who feel a need to take about these people – and there are a great many of the former – should form a united front: Even while defeating Daesh is proving exceedingly difficult, no concession should be made to them – least of all reflecting their propaganda, in how we refer to them, that they represent a ‘nation’.

As John Kerry said, they are not.