Tuesday, December 8, 2015

You Say ISIS, I Say ISIL, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

A rose by any other name is still a rose, but is the same true of the terror world’s latest scourge, ISIS? Or ISIL? Or ISI? Or IS? Or DAESH? What’s in a name?

The winning appellation thus far has been ISIS, an acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (which is popularly understood by Americans to be Syria). Its predecessor, which called itself ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) grew from an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Mujahedeen in Iraq, and a fun bunch of guys called Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions.

By 2010, Jabhat Al-Nusra, a large Syrian opposition militia group, collapsed into ISI and the “S” was added for al-Sham. For Westerners, the last “S” in ISIS stands for Syria just fine with our usage and understanding. The more austere and stately IS stands for Islamic State, and while it sounds like the place where the B-student terrorists go to college, it is as acceptable in usage as ISIS, but for eyeball-grabbin’ newsertainment, ISIS has been the popular expression.

So why does President Obama insist on using ISIL in his addresses? ISIL is an acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Levant refers to all of the countries that border the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, which would additionally include Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Jordan, and in the administration’s view, more accurately reflects the ambitions of Al-Baghdadi’s militia, as well as the nations that are most immediately vulnerable to its threat. Some component of the pundit class sees the president’s use of ISIL as unnecessarily obtuse.

Your final option is DAESH, which I understand is a real stinker as far as DAESH members are concerned. Secretary of State John Kerry prefers calling it DAESH, as it carries with it a very nasty dig. It too is an acronym, but for an Arabic phrase that is pronounced “al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa ash-Sham.” The actual meaning of the words are, “The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,” which is fine on paper, but when spoken, apparently DAESH sounds like the words that mean “the sowers of discord (Dahes),” or "one who crushes underfoot (Daes).”

A sower of discord can include a thief, an adulterer, or worst of all, an apostate, and apparently it drives these indiscriminate murderers wild with hatred and rage, but hey, what doesn’t? A DAESH spokesperson communicated through the AP in 2014 that they would, "cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym DAESH.”

So take your pick. Go full John Kerry-style and give a Wahaabist mullah the finger by using DAESH, or  follow the president’s lead and use the conspicuously contrarian ISIL. Perhaps you’d prefer to keep it short and sweet with IS, or stick with the popularly preferred ISIS. A rose by any other name is still a rose, and it is likewise so with deluded zealot assassins, so in my opinion, it matters not a fig.

As long as we are naming things properly, this is the real Isis.