French officials recently declared that that country would stop using any of those names and instead refer to the group as “Daesh.”
Whether referred to as ISIS, ISIL, or IS, all three names reflect aspirations that the United States and its allies unequivocally reject. Political and religious leaders all over the world have noted this. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, “This is a terrorist group and not a state. . . the term Islamic State blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims, and Islamists.”
The term “Daesh” is strategically a better choice because it is still accurate in that it spells out the acronym of the group’s full Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. Yet, at the same time, “Daesh” can also be understood as a play on words — and an insult. Depending on how it is conjugated in Arabic, it can mean anything from “to trample down and crush” to “a bigot who imposes his view on others.” Already, the group has reportedly threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone who uses the term.
Why do they care so much? The same reason the United States should. Language matters.
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Now 129 people are dead in Paris because Europe decided to make a fetish of its tolerance for intolerance and allow the religious distempers of its Islamist communities to fester over many years. Thatâs what happens when you sanctify political tantrums, explain and appease them, refuse to name them, try to look away.