Why Is John Kerry Now Referring to ISIS as 'Daesh'?

Posted: Dec 12, 2014 11:57 AM

The State Department doesn’t have a new or better policy toward the Islamic State, but they do have a different name for the group (as if there weren’t enough to keep track of). In addition to the Islamic State, ISIL, and ISIS, Secretary of State John Kerry is now rolling out one more: Daesh.

"In less than three months, the international community has come together to form a coalition that is already taking important steps to degrade and defeat ISIL, or Daesh," Kerry said from NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.

“Daesh is still perpetrating terrible crimes, but there was a consensus that the momentum which it had exhibited two and a half months ago has been halted," he added.

The Huffington Post explains:

"Daesh" is an acronym for the Arabic phrase meaning the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" (though the last word can also be translated as "Damascus" or "Levant"), and it is thought to offend the extremist group because it sounds similar to an Arabic word for crushing something underfoot.

Daesh in Arabic "sounds like something monstrous. ... It's a way of stigmatizing [the Islamic State], making it something ugly," Joseph Bahout, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Huffington Post.

France began using the term in September and urged others to do the same.

"This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement. "The Arabs call it 'Daesh' and I will be calling them the 'Daesh cutthroats'."

Clearly, and perhaps in an attempt to disassociate Islam from the Islamic State, Kerry has taken note. Whether it will actually change anything is another story.