Why you might have heard some French politicians calling Isis 'Daesh'

Daesh is another name for the Isis militant group. It has certain connotations

Demonstrators hold up an Isis flag
Demonstrators hold up an Isis flag

In the aftermath of the Paris murders, French governments have been referring to Isis as "Daesh". Here's all you need to know about the term.

What does ‘Daesh’ mean?

“Daesh” is another name for the militant group which calls itself “Islamic State” which is often referred to in the media by its historic names Isis or Isil.

Where does the term ‘Daesh’ come from?

“Daesh”, sometimes spelled Daiish or Da’esh, it an acronym for “Dawlat al-Islamiyah f'al-Iraq wa al-Sham” – or in its Arabaic script form, الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام‎.

That phrase is the Arabic for “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”. “al-Sham” refers to Greater Syria, an area referred to in English as “the Levant”.

Who uses the term ‘Daesh’?

Since September 2014 it has been official French policy to use “Daesh” to refer to the group. The country’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius also asked journalists to use the phrase.

The term is the most widely used in Arab countries to refer to the group. In a speech at the weekend US secretary of state John Kerry used the term, possibly signalling a change in US policy.

What is the politics like around the different names?

Daesh, when spoken, sounds similar to the Arabic words for “the sowers of dischord” (Dahes) or “one who crushes underfoot” (Daes). It thus has negative connotations.

Islamic State, which the group changed its name to most recently, is an attempt by Isis to identify itself with the wider religion of Islam.

It is also supposed to make it sound more international than Isis or Isil, which refer to specific geographic areas.

In June David Cameron asked the BBC to stop using the term “Islamic State”. He refers to the group as “Isil”.

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