When U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron told the British Parliament he was launching a series of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, he referred to the Islamic State as Daesh and the term has many Americans mystified.
The French have been using the term Daesh to refer to ISIS for some time, but why is the self-proclaimed caliphate insulted by the word?
It’s because of the difference in languages.
Daesh is an Arabic acronym meaning al Dawlah al-Islameyah fi Iraq wal-Sham, or in English: Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham. The problem is there are very few acronyms in Arabic so the term Daesh sounds silly to native speakers.
Alice Guthrie, an Arabic translator told the Independent, native speakers think the word Daesh sounds nonsensical, funny, and disrespectful, which is ultimately threatening to ISIS.
“So the insult picked up on by Daesh is not just that the name makes them sound little, silly, and powerless, but that it implies they are monsters, and that they are made-up.”
The word Daesh is also one letter away from another Arabic word: Daas, which means to crush or trample over; it implies humiliation and a lack of dignity.
Cameron has called on world leaders, the media, and people everywhere to use the term Daesh to help destabilize the regime, according to Quartz.
“This evil death cult is neither a true representation of Islam nor is it a state.”
— i100 (@thei100) December 3, 2015
The French government has been using the term for some time saying the acronym ISIS blurs the lines between Islam, Muslim and Islamists, according to the Independent.
“This is a terrorist group and not a state. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats.'”
President Obama also started using the term to refer to ISIS after the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds more. Using the group’s own designated name to refer to them gives them a sense of legitimacy, something the president wants to avoid.
Not everyone in the British Parliament agrees with the Prime Minister using the term, however. Some British lawmakers spoke out against its use saying it was ignorant and irrelevant.
The word Daesh is forbidden in Islamic State controlled territory and anyone who speaks it risks having their tongue cut out, which might be why a group of British Imans approached Cameron recently asking him to use the word. The men from the Association of British Muslims and Association of Muslim Lawyers said the word Islamic State helped legitimize a terrorist organization, according to the Independent.
“We do not believe the terror group responsible should be given the credence and standing they seek by styling themselves Islamic State. It is neither Islamic, nor is it a state.”
With the Islamic State’s impressive propaganda machine working overtime to shock and awe people into submission and draw converts to their cause it’s no surprise the group has banned the term Daesh.
Guthrie explains on her blog that the term Daesh is essentially a dismissal of everything ISIS wants to accomplish and holds dear as well as a refusal to accept them as a significant power.
“They want to be addressed as exactly what they claim to be, by people so in awe of them that they use the pompous, long, and delusional name created by the group, not some funny-sounding made-up word.”
[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]