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Trudeau Government Now Refers To ISIS As Daesh

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OTTAWA — The Liberal government says it will from now on refer to the Islamic State as Daesh.

The terrorist group, which is also known as ISIL or ISIS, is being described in government communications and ministerial speeches as ‘Daesh,’ a term that reportedly angers the so-called Islamic State.

justin trudeau
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference, May 2016. (Photo: Koji Ueda/The Associated Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noticeably used the term last Friday during his press conference in Saguenay, Que., referring to Canada’s military mission in Iraq as our part in the “coalition against Daesh.”

On Monday, Trudeau’s office referred questions about language to Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion’s office. Global Affairs is charged with ensuring that the government of Canada uses the same language overseas to describe the Islamic State.

“ISIL is no state and never will be,” Chantal Gagnon, Dion’s press secretary told HuffPost.

“Daesh is also an increasingly common name that is understood more widely throughout the region.”

“ISIL is no state and never will be."

Last week, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced in the preamble of a departmental report on Canada’s terrorism threat that the term “Daesh” would be used throughout the document.

“This group is neither Islamic nor a state, and so will be referred to as Daesh (its Arabic acronym) in this Report,” he wrote.

Department of National Defence spokesman Daniel LeBouthillier said DND is also “transitioning to Daesh.” Press releases from earlier in August and a ministerial speech from June use the term.

Canada’s allies – the United States, Britain, and France – have already adopted the term. The Conservative party has also been using “Daesh” in its communications with the public and in fundraising emails for several months.

stephane dion
Stephane Dion speaks during a conference in Washington, DC, July 20, 2016. (Photo: Andrew Biraj/AFP/Getty Images)

Dion told reporters last year that he preferred to use the term “so-called Islamic State” but said the government might consider using the word “Daesh” in all its communications.

“My own preference is the ‘so-called Islamic State,’ because people understand what it is,” he said in December. “Daesh, I’m not sure how many people will understand about what we are speaking about.”

Toronto Star editor-in-chief Michael Cooke announced in March that his newspaper would use the term Daesh, because “the criminal gang that has murdered, raped and pillaged its way across the Middle East, while sending sycophants to slaughter civilians abroad, is neither Islamic nor an internationally recognized state.”

'Daesh' could be an insult

Using the term “Daesh” has the “added benefit,” Cook wrote, of insulting rather than flattering the group.

“Daesh” is the Arabic acronym for ISIS: al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. But, as a story in the Boston Globe noted two years ago, “Daesh” can also be an insult.

“Depending on how it is conjugated in Arabic, it can mean anything from “to trample down and crush” to “a bigot who imposes his view on others,” author Zeba Khan wrote.

The Associated Press was told in Iraq that ISIS militants had “threatened to cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym Daesh,” insisting that the group be called by its full name, saying that doing otherwise would show defiance and disrespect.

“It denies that the group is either Islamic or a state and uses the derogatory Arabic acronym."

Most news outlets haven’t followed the Star’s example. The Associated Press uses the term “Islamic State group.” The BBC also uses the term “Islamic State group” and “so-called Islamic State.” Last year, the British broadcaster rejected calls by some British MPs to use the term “Daesh.” It said using “Daesh” would affect the broadcaster’s position of impartiality as it could give the impression of supporting the group’s opponents.

The Huffington Post Canada will continue to use the terms Islamic State, so-called Islamic State, ISIS and ISIL.

Middle East expert Janice Gross Stein called the government’s new wording a significant change.

“It denies that the group is either Islamic or a state and uses the derogatory Arabic acronym,” said Stein, a professor of conflict management at the University of Toronto and the founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs.

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