Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What's in a name?

Shakespeare once wrote

"What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Similarly one could make the point that an SS man or "Islamic State" Jihadi by any other name would still be a mass murderer.

And a useful starting point in deciding what to call the present-day bunch of murderers headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is to consider what we call the mid 20th-century bunch of murderers headed by Adolf Hitler.

If you have occasion to refer to the political party headed by Hitler, or to its' supporters, do you call them

1) By their official name translated into English
 (National Socialist German Workers Party)?

2) By their official name in German?
(Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

3) By the acronym of their party's full name in German?  (NSDAP)

4) Or are you one of the 99% of people who call them the Nazi party and its' members and supporters Nazis ?

It's a short, easy acronym derived from the name they claimed for themselves and which has the added advantage for nations like our own opposed to Hitler that it sounds like "nasty."

On the basis of logical consistency, if you call the Nazi party by that term rather than the full name they gave themselves, then you should refer to the so-called "Islamic State" as "DA'ESH" (usually pronounced "dash") which is a name widely used by their enemies in the Arab world and more recently by an increasing proportion of Western politicians and activists (I've been calling them that for some months.)

Although the self-styled "Islamic state" do not like being referred to by the term, DA'ESH is an abbreviation of the Arabic for what was, at the time the term was coined, the name they gave themselves:

"al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham"

(which means "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant")

So effectively calling them "DA'ESH" is the Arabic equivalent of the abbreviation "ISIL."

Why, then, such a fuss over such a tiny difference?

It would appear that the reason they do not like being called "DA'ESH" is that it sounds similar to the Arabic words 'Daes', which means 'one who crushes something underfoot' and 'Dahes', translated as 'one who sows discord'.

For English speakers it has the added advantage that you do not appear to be acknowledging their claim to speak for all true followers of Islam or recognising them as a state.

Incidentally, not wanting to refer to them as "Islamic" without inverted commas does not necessarily mean that you are suggesting they have nothing to do with Islam. I would argue that they are following a sick and perverted form of that religion, but there are plenty of other Muslims who are civilised, decent and intelligent people.

However, DA'ESH claim the right to determine who is a true Muslim, and they consider that any Muslim who votes or stands in elections, doesn't believe in throwing gay people off the nearest tall building or offends them in any other way is an apostate and marked for death.

As someone who is not a Muslim I do not claim the right to judge who is and who isn't one, but as a civilised human being I do not want to acknowledge a barbarian like Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as having the exclusive authority to speak for Allah which he claims, or the right to tell other people who are far better human beings than he is whether they are Muslims or not.

And that is why I don't refer to the movement he heads as "Islamic" or a "state" without a qualifier such as "so-called" or "self-styled" and inverted commas.

By now most people know who you are talking or writing about it you refer to "DA'ESH" and I will continue to do so.


Jim said...

I think you hit the key point there, if i mentioned to people the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei they would say What? or if i mention the NSDAP most would say What? some would say you mean the Nazis.

and that is just it. Making it clear whom you are referring.

Da'esh or IS or ISIS are equally recognised, so i think they can be used interchangeably.

Jim said...

Tha advantage of DA'ESH over the other two of course is that the group themselves have said they do not want to be known by it. Which is indeed a very good reason to use it.

Chris Whiteside said...