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Why Isis will hate it if we start calling them Daesh

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Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Popular Mobilisation units fire towards Islamic State (IS) group fighters positions on 6 July 2015, in the village of Mura in the northern Iraqi oil capital of Kirkuk
Kurdish Peshmerga forces fire towards Isis in Kirkuk, northern Iraq (Picture: Getty)

In the wake of the Tunisia beach attack, there is increasing pressure to stop calling Isis by the self-chosen name "Islamic State", on the grounds that it grants the terrorist group legitimacy.

In today’s i newspaper, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, wrote:

I’ve been encouraged over the past week to hear an increasing number of MPs from across the House of Commons refer to 'Daesh' when referring to the group previously called by nearly everyone 'Islamic State'.

Then SNP candidate for Perthshire South and Ochil, Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, poses for a photo as she canvases in the constituency on 14 April 2015 in Crieff, Scotland

I was particularly pleased by the more thoughtful response I received from Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, to my question in Parliament on the Government’s own terminology, who went further than David Cameron did.

Mr Fallon said:

I have a lot of sympathy with that view. Of course, our interlocutors in the Gulf and our coalition allies refer to it as Daesh, and as the Prime Minister reported on Monday, we have now got the BBC to move away from calling it any kind of state.

British Minister of Defence Michael Fallon leaves the Cabinet Office in central London, on 29 June 2015, after attending a COBRA meeting

I have referred to it in shorthand as Isil, and it may be too late to replace 'Isil' with 'Daesh', but the hon. Lady is right to say that we need to reflect on it and not to confer any further legitimacy on Isil.

Daesh, an adapted acronym of their Arabic name - Dawlat al-Islamiyah f'al-Iraq w Belaad al-Sham - is similar to another Arabic word - das - which means 'to trample down' or 'crush', which could therefore be the source of their dislike.

The group hates it so much, in fact, that they have reportedly threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone who uses it in public.

Last week the head of the BBC rejected calls to drop the use of the term ‘Islamic State’ in reports, saying that the BBC must be fair to Isis in its coverage of the terrorist group.

Lord hall dismissed a letter signed by 120 MPs demanding that the BBC stop using the term on the grounds it gives undue credibility to the Islamic extremists, saying the BBC would “redouble our efforts” to use caveats such as “so called Islamic State group”.

In January, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said:

Daesh hates being referred to by this term and what they don't like has an instinctive appeal to me.

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during the 35th Singapore Lecture in Singapore on 29 June 2015. Abbott is on a two-day visit to Singapore

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 would strongly counsel people against ever using the presumptuous title that they have given themselves.'

It's not often that we say, but maybe Tony Abbott has a point...


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