STATE DEPARTMENT —
The Islamic State terror group has gained worldwide infamy with its murderous exploits. It is called many different names by various people and organizations. ISIL, ISIS and IS are all commonly heard.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry used the Arabic term “Daesh” close to 20 times when referring to Islamic State extremists in a recent speech about 2016 foreign policy priorities.
“The terrorist group known as Daesh — ISIL, some people call it, but there’s nothing Islamic about it and there’s nothing that merits being called a state,” Kerry said Wednesday at the National Defense University.
The term Daesh is considered an insult that translates loosely to “one who crushes something underfoot” or “one who sows discord.” Islamic State militants hate the term and have vowed to kill anyone who uses it.
A U.S. official told VOA, “The State Department uses both Daesh and ISIL, an acronym of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, to refer to the terrorist organization,” noting that the use of Daesh is common in the Mideast and in Arab countries.
A counterterrorism expert said that by using Daesh, a derogatory term, the U.S. denies this terrorist organization a respectful name.
Seth Jones, a former defense official and now an expert at the Rand Corporation global policy think tank, said that while most U.S. officials continue to use the term ISIL, a few have used Daesh for several reasons.
Denial of legitimacy
“First, it is more consistent with the terminology used by America’s Middle East allies,” he said. “Second, it is viewed pejoratively by many within the group itself. Third, using Daesh does not give legitimacy — even perceived legitimacy — to the organization’s claim that it is a veritable 'Islamic State.' ”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a year ago that he would begin referring to the terrorist group as Daesh.
“Daesh hates being referred to by this term, and what they don’t like has an instinctive appeal to me,” Abbott said.
In October 2014, Kerry was heard using the name Daesh after an international coalition was formed to degrade and destroy the militants.
“Not everybody will play a military role or a direct kinetic role. Some will help with respect to the delegitimization of Daesh’s claims with respect to religion,” said Kerry after meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry at that time.
The top U.S. diplomat strategically brandishes the term as a verbal insult, and its usage is becoming increasingly noticed and used by others.