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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news


Andre Gray |
September 15, 2014 | 8:11 p.m. PDT

Web Producer

Wikimedia/Creative Commons
Wikimedia/Creative Commons
When President Obama went on air last Wednesday to announce his plan of retaliation against militant group “ISIL”, he sparked debates both political and linguistic. Though the terrorist group has held the attention of news outlets worldwide with the video-taped beheadings of three Western journalists this past month, confusion has persisted as to what to call the terrorist organization. Some news sources have stuck to the original “ISIS”, others have followed the Obama administration’s preferred use of “ISIL”, and the group itself refers to itself as the “Islamic State”. 

The use of all three names has understandably caused confusion, and even led some to think that they refer to three different terrorist groups. 

Which name is the right one? The short answer is that all three are legitimate, and all rightly refer to the same group. 

The long answer is that the surplus has to do with different English interpretations of the group’s original Arabic name. While the first three words translate to “The Islamic State of Iraq,” the last word, “al-Sham,” can be interpreted to mean either Syria or a larger region encompassing Syria, called Levant. Talking heads like Chuck Todd of Meet the Press have suggested reasons for why the Obama administration has chosen to use ISIL instead of ISIS. According to Todd, Obama went with the “L” in order to avoid associating ISIL with Syria in the minds of the public.

The group itself has shortened the acronym to simply “Islamic State”; a branding ploy that hints at larger aspirations. Leading Muslim groups, as well as President Obama have refused to use the new name, arguing that the group is neither Islamic nor a state. 

Read more here. 

Reach Web Producer Andre Gray here. 



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