Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 19

DAESH T his article examines the religious words and ideas the terrorist group Daesh, sometimes called Islamic State, uses to attract recruits. These words and ideas—from the name of its organization, its leader, and its online propaganda magazine, to key figures and ideas of Islam, including the prophet Mohammad, the end-of-days prophecy, and the caliphate—are components of the domain of deen, an Arabic word that means faith or religion.1 We must understand the complexity of the domain of deen, where Daesh operates, before we can “degrade and ultimately defeat” it.2 This article will demonstrate that words are the weapons of Daesh, and it will show how words can help defeat it. currently do.5 Why then, would we in the United States continue to call the enemy ISIS or ISIL, with our own choice of words giving legitimacy to a terrorist group we seek to destroy? Perhaps it is because we do not understand how much words matter to Daesh. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Quraishi, Leader of Daesh Verily the chiefest among you all for love and devotion to me is Abu Bekr. If I were to choose a bosom friend it would be he.6 —Mohammad The Daesh leader uses the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Quraishi for its religious significance. While not his real name, it conveys themes that resonate with his followers. Abu Bakr, “father of the virgin” in Militants threatened to cut the tongue of anyone who public- Arabic, was the name of the prophet Mohammad’s best ly used the acronym Daesh, instead of referring to the group friend.7 This friend was the father of Aishah, the only by its full name, saying it shows defiance and disrespect.3 virgin bride of Mohammad. When Mohammad died, —Associated Press news story Abu Bakr (sometimes spelled Bekr) became the first successor, or caliph. The Daesh leader’s middle name, What we call the enemy is important. The fact that al-Baghdadi, refers to someone from Baghdad, and we and our friends and allies have yet to definitively his last name, al-Quraishi, refers to someone from the agree on a name for this enemy speaks volumes about Quraish family. our lack of understanding. We use acronyms interThe Daesh leader wants to associate himself in the changeably, such as ISIS for Islamic State of Iraq and minds of his followers with the first caliph of Islam. Syria, or ISIL for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. He wants to recapture the fervor and spirit of the first Using those names and their acronyms, “rightly guided caliph,” and, supposedly, however, gives these terrorists the to put the Islamic community, or umreligious and political veneer they mah, back on the straight path of early seek. Those names acknowledge that Islam. The Daesh leader is the father the group is Islamic, and that it is a of a young daughter and can use the state. Neither premise, however, is name Abu Bakr in a literal sense. legitimate. Therefore, this article uses In fact, his middle name is used to the name Daesh, which is based on mislead, as he is not from Baghdad. the Arabic acronym for the Islamic He hails from the town of Samarra, State in Iraq and Syria. Daesh sounds revered by the Shia because it consimilar to an Arabic word that means tains the tombs of the tenth and elevto bruise or crush; the group’s leaders (Photo via Wikimedia Commons) enth imams. Samarra is thought to be The calligraphic representation of consider the word insulting. This artithe birthplace of the Mahdi, a relithe first Rashidun caliph, Abu Bakr, cle uses it with the intent to strip away gious figure that Muslims believe will which is prominent in the Hagia any religious or political legitimacy that Sofia museum in Istanbul, Turkey. appear at the end of days.8 The Daesh other acronyms suggest.4 leader uses the name al-Baghdadi Our friends and allies are encouraging others to use because, according to former Daesh member Abu the name Daesh, just as the Arab League and France Omar, he wants to “revive the glory of the Abbasid Which Is It: Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh? MILITARY REVIEW  March-April 2016 17