Britain and Egypt may not share many similarities on the surface, but both countries want their country’s news outlets to start adopting a new sort of language when reporting on the Islamic State. Prime Minister David Cameron and 120 British lawmakers have petitioned the BBC, asking them to stop “Islamic State” in favor of a moniker that would be less offensive to Muslims.
“I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State,” said Cameron in a recent radio interview, “because it is not an Islamic state. What it is is an appalling barbarous regime that is a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this program will recoil every time they hear the words Islamic State.”
The BBC swiftly rejected the request that they begin calling the terrorist army “Death Cult,” “Daesh,” “ISIL,” or any other term that separates them from Islam.
Cairo, which does not have the same kinds of freedoms surrounding its news media, didn’t bother with requests. They have all but demanded that local news agencies abide by their approved guidelines on ISIS. Among the terms reporters are “discouraged” from using: Islamist, jihadist, and fundamentalist. Instead, reporters should make liberal use of terms like terrorists, slayers, and savages.
The point of all this language-policing is, of course, two-fold. One, government leaders want to strip ISIS of any claim to legitimacy. Two, they want to expand their Muslim alliance and make it clear that theirs is not a battle against Islam. But it’s not certain whether a simple name-swap really makes any difference. Everyone knows what ISIS is about, and only those who have followed them down the propaganda rabbit hole believe that they are a legitimate government entity.
As far as their connection with Islam, that’s a different story.
Try as they might, these government officials will not be able to separate Islam and the Islamic State. Call them Death Cult, call them Daesh, call them KC and the Sunshine Band, it doesn’t matter. Anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention to their murderous rampage knows that these guys are true believers. They may not adhere to the “moderate” Islam preferred by billions of followers, but their faith is unquestionable. One can easily make the case that ISIS is not a legitimate country. Making the case that they are not true Muslims is a bit trickier.
You can throw a saddle over your dog’s back and call him a horse, but it’s not going to change what he really is. The same is true of ISIS. No matter what you call them, their stripes remain the same. And while their form of Islam is particularly harsh, it isn’t that far removed from the form of Islam practiced in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other quasi-theocracies. Perhaps we should focus less on taking the Islam out of the Islamic State and more on taking the Islamic State’s view of this religion out of Islam.