A question posed by Howard Portnoy last month — Why does the Obama administration say “ISIL” rather than “ISIS”? — has generated a fair amount of discussion at LU. Now a Miami-area woman has weighed in on the issue, but not for reasons relating to geopolitics. Rather, it is because of what is in a name. The Miami Herald explains:
Isis Martinez, 38, started a petition on thepetitionsite.com urging the media to refer to the group as ISIL, or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, to purge her and other women’s names of the negative connotation.
“Whenever I was at a public place or a restaurant, there would be TV monitors with tickers at the bottom: ‘ISIS warns,’ ‘ISIS kills,’ ‘ISIS threat,’” she said. “Every word after my name is incredibly negative.”
In other words, she’s so vain she probably thinks this war is about her. Remarkably, the petition has garnered more than 5,000 signatures as of this writing.
The article goes on to quote Marsha Cohen, a South Miami-based foreign policy analyst, as saying that the question about what to call the group is not one of accuracy as much as it is transliteration from Arabic to English:
Everything about the title is somewhat negotiable. It’s dependent upon who is doing the speaking and who is doing the listening.
The Arabic name is al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham. Dawla is state, Islamiya is Islamic and Iraq is Iraq. Sham refers to Syria and its bordering countries (other than Iraq). In that case, ISIL would be the more accurate translation.
But Cohen cautions that in calling it that, “you’re legitimizing this organization’s claim not only to Iraq and Syria, but to the whole Middle East.”
Her recommendation is to call the DIIS, which is an acronym formed from the Arabic name, except using the Roman alphabet, which seems to cancel out the whole enterprise. Besides, what is the Danish Institute for International Studies — DIIS — supposed to do in that case? One answer of course would be to start a petition of its own.