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Why The Arabs Call Islamic State – Daesh.


When we first heard of this offshoot from Al Qaeda in Iraq a few years back they were often referred to as ISIL – this was a translation, of sorts, of Islamic State in the Levant. That is the now rather quaint expression for Lebanon and Syria from French colonial times. Go back further and it becomes synonymous with the whole coastal region from Lebanon to Libya.

About a year ago ISIL began to change to ISIS. The Obama administration and the US media started to use that term. This is partly because the Arabic word for the Levant, is al Shams, so Islamic State of Al Shams could be ISIS.  But then last summer the group re branded themselves IS – Islamic State.

And therein lies a problem, critics say they are neither Islamic nor a state. Well, they are underpinned by their version of Islam, but putting that to one side, they have not yet got a seat at the United Nations and are clearly not a state. So, what to call them

By the middle of the summer of 2014 the Arab leaders, and most of the Arab media, were routinely referring to Daesh.  There are two reasons for this: One – it’s an acronym of sorts for the Arabic – – الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام which is ‘Dawlat’ – State,  ‘al Islamiya’ – Islam,  ‘Iraq’ – Iraq, ‘Wa’ – And,  and ‘al Shams’ – the Levant. But the second reason  Arabs across the Middle East call Daesh – Daesh is because Daesh absolutely hates it!

Arab friends tell the W&Y that Daesh sounds similar to the verb ‘Daes’ – one who sows dissent.

More importantly it rhymes with negative words such as Fahish – a sinner, and, best of all, for those who don’t care for this particular group’s brand of Islam, is that it rhymes with, and sounds a bit like, Jahesh – Stupid Ass. This is worse than being called a donkey because in Arab culture one of the few things more stupid than a donkey is an Ass.

Few in the West have caught on yet – The French foreign Minister Laurent Fabius uses it arguing that “This is a terrorist group not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims, and Islamists”. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott concurs saying “What they don’t like has an instinctive appeal to me”.

The linguistic battle is on, and as Daesh knows – words, and terms, matter.

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5 Comments on "Why The Arabs Call Islamic State – Daesh."

  1. nehad ismail | 22nd May 2015 at 7:42 am | Reply

    Yes absolutely right.
    is widely believed by the Syrian opposition, activists and Syria watchers, that the Assad regime has surrendered Palmyra to ISIS in a cynical move to say to the world you can either have ISIS or the Assad regime. Why is it the regime failed to attack the 4 x 4 Daesh’s columns which were approaching Palmyra from the East. Why didn’t the Syrian army, Hezbollah and Iran fighters stand and fight Daesh in and around Palmyra?
    To the Syrians Palmyra is not famous for its ancient ruins, but for the notorious Tadmur Prisons where the regime had committed several massacres since the early 1980s.

    The Arabic name for Palmyra is Tadmur تدمر

  2. فواز الدعيج | 22nd May 2015 at 8:59 am | Reply

    I think at the top, ISIS is made up of Iraq Baath Party. “Stupid ass” foot soldiers from the rest of this world make up the ranks at the bottom!

    I still have not figured out the US Special forces types we see from time to time posing as Daesh!

  3. Ian Sherwood | 25th May 2015 at 11:08 am | Reply

    The favoured way of describing them
    By King Abdullah II of Jordan who says calling them Islamic State is what they want.

  4. daesh is real islam.

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