There are several drawbacks to the use of the word "ISIS" or "Islamic State" to refer to the terrorist organisation otherwise known as "Daesh".

Firstly, "Isis" is a common name, used both for other organisations and even to name children. By associating the name with such a cruel entity like Daesh, one is causing unnecessary harm to a large group of people.

Secondly, "ISIS" or "Islamic State" contains an explicit mention of the word Islam. This has two negative drawbacks: firstly, it undermines the largely islamic effort to counter Daesh's activities, along with the sacrifices made by the largely islamic victims of terrorism.

And secondly, it serves to strengthen Daesh, as they can thus more easily present themselves and their ideas as a true interpretation of Islam and thus attract more muslims to their cause .... even if their interpretation is the correct one, surely we should do them no favors by giving them the name they so desire, especially considering the fact that it isn't at all commonly accepted by other muslims that their interpretation is correct. By naming them "Islamic State", one is however sadly sending the signal to young and easily manipulated muslims that this movement is where they belong. In short: the name itself is a propaganda tool, and we shouldn't grant them that tool.

Finally, Daesh themselves hate to be called Daesh, so that is in and itself a reason why we should be doing it. After all, they must not like that word for a particular reason, and whatever that reason may be, we should exploit it.

So, why don't more countries in the western world, such as most of western europe and USA, not use the word Daesh, rather than the more commonly accepted "ISIS" and "Islamic State" (the latter is even a tag on this very site)?

NOTE: I am well aware that sometimes such things are uncontrollable and take a life of their own. But, that does not mean that a politician or media person can't take a responsable decision and say "you know what, from now on I will be calling it Daesh. Let's force a change". This is what France has attempted.

  • 1
    I'm not sure if this can be truly objectively answered, but for my part I think a large part of it is simply because it's not obvious how to pronounce "Daesh" in many languages, it certainly isn't in English and and Dutch, the two languages I'm most familiar with.
    – user11249
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 17:34
  • Is increasing name calling really what you want?
    – user9389
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 17:48
  • 4
    Who are you to say radical jihadism isn't a true interpretation of the Qur'an? There's no such thing as a "true interpretation", only ones which are pleasant to others and those which are not. Whether they are correct or not is a matter for opinion and debate, hence why radical Islam exists in the first place. If it was not " true interpretation" as you put it, it would not be done with such vehemence and frequency. There are many ways of interpreteting such a tremendously vague text
    – Charlie
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 18:40
  • 1
    Däsh (like the "dash" in sprint) or Da-esh (da/dä - esh/ish/isch, two syllables)? Da'eesh in Dansk? Dáesh/Daish in spanish? Daech in french? And yes, all countries know ISIS as abbreviation. Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 20:31
  • 1
    Actually, ISIS' interpretation is more true than OP's. Reference: this excellent in-depth article on ISIS: "What ISIS really wants"@The Atlantic. Also, "countries" don't have decision making abilities. Only individuals in them do.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 20:37

3 Answers 3


Why do more countries not use Daesh to refer to ISIS?

Countries are not a person and often, different groups within a country will use different terms.

Some people will use the term Daesh and other people or organisations will use the name used by the organisation they are referring to.

The policy of the BBC, for example, is to use the name I.S. or Islamic State because that is how that organisation refers to itself. There is an important journalistic point here about journalistic integrity and impartiality. Should you indulge in pejorative name-calling for all targets that are broadly disliked? Whether or not we agree with this approach, it is something that some people take seriously. This accounts for why some people are reluctant to use the term Daesh.

Politicians and other groups are often not bound by the same ethical framework. There is an understandable desire to clearly distinguish the philosophy of I.S. from that of Islam - many people consider that I.S. is un-islamic. Hence the use of Daesh in the Arabic speaking world and the increased adoption of Daesh in the English speaking world.

There is also often a perceived need to maintain a continuity in the naming of groups - even when those groups change name. Hence the continued use of ISIL and ISIS.

The BBC has an article Isis, Isil, IS or Daesh? One group, many names which covers this subject:

When talking about the group - which has also spawned affiliates elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Asia - UN and US officials generally use the acronym "Isil", the acronym of "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant".

The group itself has not used that name since June 2014 when it declared the creation a caliphate and shortened its name to "Islamic State" (IS) to reflect its expansionist ambitions.

Since then, BBC News has been using that term, but qualifying it as "Islamic State group" or "self-styled Islamic State" and shortening it to "IS" on subsequent mentions.

Other media have continued to use "Isil" or "Isis", which is based on the other widely used translations of the group's former name - "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" or "Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham".

But the term "Daesh" (or Da'ish) has also gained currency, both in the Middle East and further afield, and has been used as a way of challenging the legitimacy of the group due to the negative connotations of the word.


"ISIS" or "ISIL" has a direct meaning, as an acronym in English and in many other languages used by "western" nations. As such, it has clear meaning to people who speak those languages.

English: Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

German: Islamischen Staat im Irak und Syrien

French (I'm stretching, here): etat ISlamique en Irak et en Syrie

Spanish: estado ISlámico en Irak y Siria

Hungarian: ISzlám államot Irakban és Szíriában

You get the point. It's an acronym that can have easily remembered meaning across those western nations.

DAESCH, while also an acronym, is an acronym using a different language than is familiar to those western nations (al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, if the Internet is to be believed). It also happens to translate to what the ISIS acronym means in English.

I think it's just a matter of comfort and familiarity.

If my name is "Fred," and, when gaining notoriety, I choose to call myself "Bob," I think most would refer to me by "Bob," with many noting that I was originally Fred, even if they thought I was a jerk. Some might not, but when that was the case with Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali, that was viewed, largely, as small-beans pettiness.

Using the name they call themselves, essentially, doesn't make a statement about the validity that they think their name implies, it's just a matter of identification. Not giving them that particular satisfaction in not calling them some other name that they wouldn't like is pretty low on the priorities of items that most would like to deny them. That seems to be a mostly symbolic issue and not especially substantial, to those in the west. We might be oblivious to weight or importance that others may feel is warranted, though, certainly.

  • That state claims world domination, not just Irak and Syria, thus your answer is void.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 6:06
  • 1
    @Bregalad: You miss the point. What they claim is one thing (based only at their wet dreams at this point), how they are named by the rest of the world (based on what they actually represent in reality) is another. This question was not about this distinction either way, but about why some countries (mostly western ones) use a different name for the latter case than others (mostly muslim-dominated ones). This answer tries to explain that (gist: "it's the same acronym in different languages, and most people don't care").
    – Annatar
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 6:54
  • 4
    You're indeed stretching ;) As a matter of fact, “ISIS” is almost unknown in France, the alternative is between “EI” (for “État islamique”) and “Daesh” (quite common but far from universal).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 7:48
  • You are stretching a lot, actually. ISIS is the acronym of...ISIS, in the mind of many Europeans.
    – motoDrizzt
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 11:13
  • 2
    @Relaxed - I was accepting the basis of the question - that the vast majority of western Europe and the USA used ISIS. If they don't, then it's the question, itself, that is based on a false premise. Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 13:36

The name ISIS/ISIL comes from a translation of the groups original real name into English. President Barak Obama used ISIL famously because in the U.S. military community, that was the group's first translation and for internal consistency, it was always called that. The confusion comes from the word Al-Sham in the organization's name, which is loosely translated as Levant or Syria, and is a nebulous region that can include several other middle eastern countries. This would be the equivalent of an organization called the "American State of Pennsylvania and Delmarva (ASPD)" both of which are real geographical regions, but the former is a definitive bounded region, while the later is a looser bound of multiple states (specifically the peninsula formed by the eastern shores of Maryland and Virginia and the entirety of Delaware). Thus, calling ISIL ISIS is akin to calling our hypothetical organization ASPM (subbing Maryland for Delaware/Delmarva).

While Daesh is the Arabic name Acronym, it is not favored by the organization becasue Acronyms are not typical of the Arabic language AND this particular one sounds like real Arabic words Daes (someone who tramples underfoot) and Dahis (lit. Felon and Dust... generally used as a pejorative for someone who sows discord). Thus, while the Arabic Speaking community that does use this to describe the organization, the organization does not and takes offense to these. It's also my understanding that the words they are using are not polite words in civilized society, but I don't speak Arabic and cannot confirm this (those that I learned this from I wouldn't say are the best sources). For an English example, this would be if the support group for ex-bullies who ripped up children's trading cards "Former Yu-gi-oh Card Killers" was acronymed to only the capitalized letters in their name. It's not a real world, but it's close enough to something they don't want to put on the community bulletin board either.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .