Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

France is ditching the ‘Islamic State’ name — and replacing it with a label the group hates

From the start, exactly what to call the extremist Islamist group that has taken over much of Syria and Iraq has been problematic.

At first, many called it the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or (the acronym Daesh in Arabic).

However, due to differences over how the name should be translated from the Arabic, some (including the U.S. government) referred to them as ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

(The US preferred ISIL in order to satisfy the wishes of their obscurantist Wahhabi Saudi Arabia monarchy that is scared to giving the ISIS any further expansion schemes into Saudi Arabia, the hotbed of Wahhabism and their homeland. Wahhabism is the extreme Protestant counterpart in Islamic sects)

To make matters more complicated, the group later announced that it should simply be called the “Islamic State” – a reference to the idea that the group was breaking down state borders to form a new caliphate.

(Or the caliphate title is thought after by the Saudi monarchy)

A number of media groups, including The Post, the Associated Press  and, eventually, the New York Times, adopted this name, while others stuck with ISIS and ISIL.

Now the French have added another complication.

On Monday, the French government released a statement that included a reference to the group under a different name: “Daesh.

September 17 , 2014

France had hinted that it would begin using this term – how the group is referred to in much of the Arab world – before, but this week appears to be the first time that the country has used it in official communications.

This is a terrorist group and not a state,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters last week, according to France 24.

I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats.’ ”

That logic is certainly understandable, and the French aren’t alone in bristling at the idea that an extremist group gets to take the moniker “Islamic State.”

Last month, Egypt’s leading Islamic authority, Dar al-Ifta, called on the world’s media to stop using the term, instead suggesting a new term: “al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria” or QSIS.

“The initiative by Dar al-Ifta came to express the institution’s rejection of many stereotypes that attach the name of Islam to bloody and violent acts committed by such groups,” Ibrahim Negm, an adviser to Egyptian grand mufti Shawqi Allam, told al-Arabiya News.

And a group of British imams recently called on British Prime Minister David Cameron to stop calling the group “Islamic State,” making a request for a new moniker, “Un-Islamic State,” instead.

“We do not believe the terror group responsible should be given the credence and standing they seek by styling themselves Islamic State,” a letter sent from the imams to Cameron read, according to the Guardian. “It is neither Islamic, nor is it a state.

Despite the admirable French logic, Daesh comes with its own complications.

As historian and blogger Pieter van Ostaeyen noted back in February, that word is a transliteration of an Arabic word (داعش), an acronym for al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham (which is itself a transliteration of the group’s Arabic name: الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام).

There are a variety of different schools of transliteration, and there are a number of different styles for writing the Arabic acronym in Latin characters: The Washington Post uses DAIISH, but DAASH, DAIISH and DAISH are also used.

However it’s spelled, there’s another big factor: The group is reported to hate the moniker.

The Associated Press recently reported that the group were threatening to cut out the tongues of anyone who used the phrase publicly, and AFP have noted that the term “Daeshi” has been used a derogatory term in some parts of the Middle East.

Some analysts have suggested that the dislike of the term comes from its similarity to another Arabic word, دعس, or Das. That word means to trample down or crush.

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.

 

Iraq’s problems are not timeless. The U.S. is responsible.

With the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS,  faction of Al Qaeda) taking over cities in Iraq one by one, Rosen’s words have proven true. Though, as it turns out, it is the Sunnis going to war against the Shias in power this time around.

(The minority Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq for 3 decades until the US forces displaced him and succumbed to the Iraqi morass for 8 long years, as long as the Iraqi-Iranian war lasted 2 decades ago).

And, while the Sunnis have not quite been “cleansed” from Baghdad, the Shia/Sunni conflict has been unrelenting, and Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian policies seem to have prompted the most recent rounds of violence. (Even the Kurds are taking advantage of the conflict to secure land.)

How was Rosen able to make such a prescient statement? While critics blame Obama’s policies for the deteriorating situation, Rosen agrees with Nancy Pelosi, who said the current crisis “represents the failed policies that took us down this path 10 years ago.”

Rosen, who was an independent, unembedded reporter in Iraq on and off for two years, writes:

When Baghdad fell, on April 9, 2003, and widespread violence erupted, the primary victims were Iraq’s Sunnis. For Shias, this was justice. “It is the beginning of the separation,” one Shia cleric told me with a smile in the spring of 2003.

Saddam had used Sunni Islam to legitimize his power, building one large Sunni mosque in each Shia city in the south; these mosques were seized by Shias immediately after the regime collapsed. . . .

Some realignment of power was inevitable after Saddam’s removal, and perhaps not even shared opposition to the American occupation could have united Sunnis and Shias. As it happened, the occupation divided Iraqis between those seen as anti-occupation and those seen as pro-occupation.

For Rosen, the seeds of this conflict were planted from the beginning, and “enshrined” by United States’s attempt to democratize Iraq, as sectarian parties failed to win seats:

The American sectarian approach has created the civil war [in Iraq]. We saw Iraqis as Sunnis, Shias, Kurds. We designed a governing council based on a sectarian quota system and ignored Iraqis (not exiled politicians but real Iraqis) who warned us against it.

We decided that the Sunnis were the bad guys and the Shias were the good guys. These problems were not timeless. In many ways they are new, and we are responsible for them. The tens of thousands of cleansed Iraqis, the relatives of those killed by the death squads, the sectarian supporters and militias firmly ensconced in the government and its ministries, the Shia refusal to relinquish their long-awaited control over Iraq, the Kurdish commitment to secession, the Sunni harboring of Salafi jihadists—all militate against anything but full-scale civil war.

Indeed, in 2003, Juan Cole pointed to the U.S. preference for Shias:

In removing the Baath regime and eliminating constraints on Iraqi Islamism, the United States has unleashed a new political force in the Gulf: not the upsurge of civic organization and democratic sentiment fantasized by American neoconservatives, but the aspirations of Iraqi Shiites to build an Islamic republic.

But in the next breath, he makes it clear how unlikely it was that the Shias could remain in control:

To be sure, the dreams of a Shiite Islamic republic in Baghdad may be unrealistic: a plurality of the country is Sunni (wrong data, the Shiaa are the majority, now and then), and some proportion of the 14 million Shiites is secularist.

And even before the United States entered Iraq, John W. Dower, reflecting on the experience of postwar Japan, told us not “expect democracy in Iraq”: “Put simply, one of the reasons the reformist agenda succeeded is that Japan was spared the type of fierce tribal, religious, and political factionalism that exists in countries like Iraq today.” He writes:

I have no doubt that huge numbers of Iraqis would welcome the end of repression and establishment of a democratic society, but any number of considerations make the situation there very different than it was in Japan.

Apart from lacking the moral legitimacy and internal and global support that buttressed its occupation of Japan, the United States is not in the business of nation-building any more—just look at Afghanistan. And we certainly are not in the business of promoting radical democratic reform. Even liberal ideals are anathema in the conservative circles that shape U.S. policy today.

The central tensions in Iraq, sadly, seem nowhere close to being solved. It is just as true now as it was in 2006 when Rosen was writing, and in 2003 when we entered Iraq, that:

The once confident and aggressive Sunnis now see the state as their enemy. They are very afraid. All Iraqis are.

Photograph: James Gordon


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