France Is Pissing Off the Islamic State by Calling It Names


The news: Since it started making headlines, the feared and violent Islamic State terrorist organization has undergone a number of name changes in the media, from ISIS to ISIL to just IS, but France just came up with a new moniker, and it's driving the group crazy. 

This past week, the French government announced it that, going forward, it would be referring to the group by a new name: "Daesh." 

The decision was announced by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who asked journalists and the media to adopt the new name for a very simple reason:

"This is a terrorist group and not a state," Fabius told reporters, according to France24. "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.'"

Bebeto Matthews/AP

International Relations Trolling: Though determining an exact translation of Daesh would be tricky (it seems to have started as a kind of acronym and morphed into something meaning "to thread underfoot, trample down, crush"), one thing is abundantly clear: The terrorists hate it. 

According to an Associated Press report, the group has threatened to cut out the tongue of anyone caught publicly using the name/acronym Daesh, and AFP reports that in some parts of the Arab world, "daeshi" is being used an an adjective to refer to a bigot who imposes their views on others. 

A smart tactic: IS, or Daesh, views this term as a sign of defiance and disrespect and is getting pretty angry about the new trend. But, in its simple and subtle way, it's an amazing weapon against the ruthless group. For one thing, as Fabius clearly pointed out, the Islamic State is neither "Islamic" nor a "State." The former title would be a misrepresentation of and disservice to the Islamic world, and the latter would be an unwarranted and subtle recognition of the group's legitimacy in the region. They are not a state any more than any other terrorist organization. 

But besides that, one of the IS's main weapons at this point is their ability to fear-monger and their self-created image of a very powerful, dangerous and possibly unstoppable group. Its surprisingly effective social media strategy has been the driving force behind a lot of the growing fear, especially in the Western world, as well as its continued recruitment of new members, from both inside and outside the Arab world. 

An imposing "Islamic State" seems like something to fear, but as the group reveals more about itself, it's becoming apparent that the group isn't nearly as dominating as it wants to appear. The gruesome beheading videos, while terrible, are simple fear tactics — fear is the Islamic State's best weapon. And as soon as people stop fearing IS, as soon as they equate IS with a derogatory and spiteful joke (like calling them Daesh), the group will lose that weapon and become a much less powerful, dominating and fear-inducing organization. 

So while France's calling the group Daesh might seem like an overly simple and ineffective gesture, it may be the smartest move any of us could have made.