Don't dignify themby AC Grayling / December 10, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Daesh vs Islamic State in Prospect
Professor Grayling: I understand your reasons for advocating the use of Daesh. I hope you’ll forgive me if Prospect does not at this point follow. It’s not just that Islamic State is established as a name, and I have generally followed the principle that things or people should be able to call themselves what they like (and if they have chosen something grandiose, that will be exposed as hollow).
I am sceptical, too, whether the supposed insult does in fact have any offensive power against the people it is supposed to be insulting.
More than that, though, I mind being pushed into a foreign language—and so diminishing the impact and notoriety of the group to English audiences—at the point when we are trying to summon up support to do something about them. If you are balancing the sense of threat in the wider public conjured up by the use of “Islamic State” against the supposed legitimacy it gives to either part of that two-word claim, I’d go with the former.
Bronwen Maddox is Editor of Prospect
In the record of his teachings known as the Analects, Confucius is recorded as recommending a “rectification of names,” that is, using language with clarity and accuracy. In line with this excellent advice, let us call “Islamic State” by what its Arab opponents call it: Daesh—a contraction of its full Arabic name ad-Dawlah al-Islamiyah fil Iraq wa Sham—which Daesh dislikes because it sounds too like another Arabic word meaning “destroyer.” And let us—even more importantly—call by its name what action against Daesh should be recognised as: an international police operation to extirpate a criminal gang of murderers and vandals.