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What using the name ‘Daesh,’ rather than ‘ISIS’ or ‘ISIL,’ really means

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Teaching Professor of Arabic Shakir Mustafa explains the term "Daesh" referring to the Islamic State group and what its origins are.

What does “Daesh” mean? What are its origins and its relationship to the other names?


SHAKIR MUSTAFA, Teaching Professor of Arabic: Daesh is the Arabic acronym standing for the Islamic State in the Levant. It was used before the group took control of northern Iraq and eastern Syria. Acronyms are not common in Arabic, but Arabs across the Arab world fell in love with this one because it rhymes with or suggests a number of nefarious words and concepts in Arabic: “Committer of heinous crimes,” “crusher,” “crumbler,” “shocker.” What better way to not acknowledge the group? Daesh also sounded disrespectful enough to annoy the group.

Today many Arabs use the nefarious Arabic words to refer to ISIS rather than the acronym itself. A student in one of my classes told me how Saudi Arabia is popularizing the word “Fahish” (“committer of heinous crimes”) in referring to the group. Other “close” words currently in use are “Dahis” (the one who hits others with a vehicle), “Daeick” (crumbler, crusher), and “Dahish” (surpriser, shocker).

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