Once again the group calling itself Islamic State has grabbed the media’s attention after a series of brutal terrorist attacks across the world. For fear of allowing the horrific actions to create widespread anti-Islamic contempt, we take a look at the implications of using the name Daesh when referring to the terrorist organisation.

The terrorist group, a self-proclaimed Islamic State and caliphate, has been a source of widespread terror for years due to an ongoing cycle of violence and terror both within the area surrounding Iraq and Syria and international states. The group originated in 1999 as Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad and changed its name to al-Qaeda in 2004. In 2006, the name changed to ISI (Islamic State in Iraq). Subsequently, the name of the organisation has since developed into ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant—the Levant being the historical region surrounding Syria). Recently, the group has adopted the term Islamic State, referring to their desire for a global caliphate rather than a state contained within the regions surrounding Iraq and Syria.

However, a global defiance against terrorist actions has resulted in the calling on the international community and media to use the term Daesh when referring to the organisation. Daesh is a loose acronym of al-Dawla al-Islamiya al Iraq al-Sham (Arabic for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The acronym sounds like the Arabic words Daes and Dahes, meaning “one who crushes something underfoot” and “one who sows discord” respectively.

Lt. Gen. James Terry, commander of the US mission in Iraq and Syria has requested that Daesh is used to describe the militants, suggesting that use of the term ISIL “legitimises a self-declared caliphate. Daesh is a more derogatory term, Isis and Isil are more neutral.” Indeed, the derogatory nature of Daesh has been perceived by some as a means of removing the association between the terrorist organisation and the wider Islamic community as opposed to IS, which legitimises the groups association with the religion. Global leaders, such as French President Francois Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have begun to refer to the terrorist group as Daesh. US President Barack Obama has also been reluctant to call the extremists ‘Islamic’, deeming them “people who have perverted Islam.”

Earlier this year, a group of 120 British MPs, including London mayor Boris Johnson and ex-leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond, sent a letter to the BBC requesting that they adopt the term Daesh rather than IS. However, the BBC rejected this request for fear that rejecting neutral terms such as IS or ISIS in favour of Daesh would threaten their impartiality.

Despite the BBC’s attempt to retain impartiality in its reporting, it is difficult to remain neutral in the face of the atrocities occurring across the world as a result of an extremist action. To disassociate IS with Islam by employing the term Daesh would be to ensure that public perception is that militant ideology is not representative of the wider Muslim community.

 – Kate Dean, Correspondent (Our World)