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Islamic State

In 2015 there was much discussion over what to call the group currently fighting in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ben McIntyre in The Times said:
‘The group was originally “the Organisation of Monotheism and Jihad” … then it became “the Organisation of Jihad’s base in Mesopotamia” …then “the Mujahideen Shura Council” and finally Islamic State of Iraq and Syria…’

And this has been translated by the western press in many ways:

  • Islamic State - (the English version of what the terrorist group calls itself, though David Cameron has pointed out it neither represents Islam nor is it a state)
  • Isil – (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a geographical term that includes the eastern shore of the Mediterranean -- Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Jordan - also known in Arabic as "sham.")
  • Isis – (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the group began as the Iraqi branch of al Qaeda during the U.S. occupation and used the name after it invaded Syria in 2013)
  • Daesh – (an Arabic abbreviation and acronym from al-Dawla al-Islamyia fil Iraq wa'al Sham, meaning "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant". It is disliked by some of the group and is also seen by some in the region as being pejorative as it sounds similar to "Daw'aish" meaning "bigots who impose views on others," Daes" meaning "one who crushes something underfoot" and "Dahesh" meaning "one who sows discord".)
  • Islamic State Group - (used by the BBC and AP, sometimes together with “extremist” or “militant”)
  • So-called Islamic State – (used by David Cameron)

This is a classic example of the linguistic conundrum of identifying a group as either terrorists or freedom fighters. The use of one or the other identifies your sympathies and so, for a body like the BBC, there is a need for a more neutral term.

Following the terrorist bombing of Paris in November 2015 a Conservative MP, Rehman Chishti, was quoted as saying that by using the term Islamic State the prime minister was "handing legitimacy to the Paris attackers." He went on: "If the government now officially adopts the term Daesh we can deprive [the group] of the legitimacy that it seeks."

Which of the above is most suitable?

Read the three articles below before giving your response.

The name-calling that cuts Isis down to size

You cannot be fair to terrorists, say ministers

Accidents or incidents?



 See also