After the horrific terror attacks in Paris and Beirut, Western government officials are urging everyone to refer to the so-called Islamic State by the Arabic word "Daesh." These terrorists are infuriated by being called by this name. Rumors say that people in towns under their control have their tongues cut out for using this name instead of "Islamic State."
Cutthroats By Any Other Name
French and Spanish officials have long used Daesh instead of ISIS or ISIL to identify the Salafist terrorist group controlling portions of Syria and Iraq. This is to avoid legitimizing their declaration of an Islamic State. The French foreign minister told reporters that using the term 'Islamic State' “causes confusion between Islam, Islamists, and Muslims. This is what the Arabs call Daesh, and I will call the Daesh cutthroats.”
Tony Abbot, when he was Australian prime minister, took up the term early on. He told reporters “I absolutely refuse to refer to it by the title that it claims for itself (Islamic State), because I think this is a perversion of religion and a travesty of governance. I’ve never used that term and I would strongly counsel people against ever using the presumptuous title that they have given themselves … Daesh hates being referred to by this term, and what they don’t like has an instinctive appeal to me"
So, What Does Daesh Mean?
Western media is full of speculation over the meaning of the word Daesh, where it comes from, and why it provokes such anger from ISIS. News outlets assign some mysterious origin and meaning to this Arabic word. The truth is, Daesh (or Da'esh) is actually an acronym for “Dawlat al-Islamiyah f'al-Iraq wa al-Sham” – “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”? in Arabic. The only real wordplay is to drop the "h" to make the word daes, "someone or something that tramples things underfoot." A pretty good description for these supposed defender of Islam.
Arabic translator Alice Guthrie discusses the origin of the word in a lengthy article, "Decoding Daesh." In it, she quotes the man who invented the word, who explains why it is so powerful. Khaled al-Haj Saleh was a resident of Raqqa when the Daesh invaded and turned the city into their capital. he came up with the word in 2013 as an effort to belittle and delegitimize them.
He explained: "If an organization wants to call itself ‘the light’, but in fact they are ‘the darkness’, would you comply and call them ‘the light’?"
Why Does ISIS Hate The Word Daesh So Much?
The Daesh are extremist Muslim fundamentalists that are intent on recreating the Seventh century Caliphate, and bringing about an Islamic Apocalypse with the West that will see Islam rule the world. The Daesh claim supreme religious, political and military authority over all Muslims and Islamic nations. Their leader, known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has demanded every Muslim in the world swear loyalty to him, including all other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
So, you can see that they take themselves very seriously.
Using Daesh to describe them is a direct refusal to acknowledge their claims of being a righteous Islamic state, and defenders of "true" Islamism. The word carries extra power against these pompous terrorists, because acronyms are virtually unknown in the Arab world. Even the rebels fighting against ISIS were shocked at first of the idea if using an acronym as a name.
Think of the most self-righteous, uptight, tradition-bound group of people you can. People who think they are the supreme religious authority on Earth, chosen by God to do His will. Now, imagine their reaction if everyone started calling them the "Oobly Jooblies."
This is the reaction ISIS has to the word "Daesh."
These Daesh are extremely eager to be seen as the people bringing back the glory days of the ancient Caliphate empire, and cleansing Islam of decadence. The West only reinforces that image by using the name "Islamic State" to identify them. Their grandiose claims and perceived power are central to their recruiting efforts. Using a nonsense word instead to identify them instead denies them that legitimacy.
The word Daesh allows people to refer to this group of rapists and murderers of innocents in a way that mocks their authority and their claims of being a state.
And that's the best reason to use it.