Daesh is just the Arabic acronym (not “loose acronym”) for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” so this is just camouflage. Fabius just wants to use some name that doesn’t include “Islamic” in it, so that he can continue to pretend that what the Islamic State does has nothing to do with Islam. Unfortunately, however, no matter what France calls the Islamic State, it will still continue to act the way it is acting now, and to justify its actions by reference to the Qur’an and Sunnah.
“France switches to Arabic ‘Daesh’ acronym for Islamic State,” France 24, September 17, 2014:
The French government has come up with an answer to a point of persistent journalistic confusion – how exactly does one refer to the Islamic State organisation brutally carving out a self-declared “caliphate” in Syria and northern Iraq?
From now on the French foreign ministry will be calling it Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS and IS.
Last week, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius asked journalists and media organisations to do the same.
He said: “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. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats’.”
His first press release using the name was issued on Monday.
Time will tell if the French media decide to toe the line. For the moment, FRANCE 24 is still calling it the Islamic State organisation, abbreviating that to IS.
While there is a great deal of international consensus that the IS needs to be dealt with, this doesn’t stretch to nomenclature.
Both London and Washington refer to IS as ISIL, the anglicised acronym of what IS called itself until this summer when it dropped the “Levant” from its name, betraying its ambitions to restore the Muslim caliphate (which ended in 1924 when the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist).
The evolution of a name
The group that is now known as IS was founded in 2006 as a fusion of various jihadist groups operating in Iraq, including the Iraqi branch of al Qaeda, then led by the notorious Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
This new group called itself the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), and after the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, ISI decided to expanded its operations across the border under the banner of the al-Nusra Front.
In April 2013, ISI chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced that the al-Nusra Front and ISI were linked, and that henceforth they would be merged and known collectively as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (Arabic for the Levant, hence both ISIS and ISIL being used in the West).
Al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani refused to accept the reorganisation, and al-Nusra continues to exist as a separate entity and as the official Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.
Daesh is a loose acronym of the Arabic for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham).Use of acronyms is rare in the Arabic world, with the notable exception of the Palestinian group Hamas (Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾiSlāmiyya).
First used in April 2013 by Arabic and Iranian media hostile to the jihadist movement, Daesh became a name commonly used by the enemies of IS, notably forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as activists and less fanatical rebel groups also fighting the Damascus regime.
A principal reason for using the acronym was to remove the words “Islamic” and “State” in reference to the group in a bid to stop Muslims in war-torn Syria and beyond flocking to its ranks.
Defiance and disrespect
It is also considered insulting, and the IS itself doesn’t like the name Daesh one bit.
Beyond the acronym, “Daesh” sounds lie the Arabic “Daes”, meaning “one who crushes something underfoot” as well as “Dahes”, which means “one who sows discord”.
Dahes is also a reference to the Dahes wal Ghabra period of chaos and warfare between Arab tribes which is famous in the Arab world as one of the precursors of the Muslim age.
“Daesh” therefore has considerably negative undertones. There can be little political ambiguity behind the French government’s decision to deploy Daesh as a linguistic weapon.