A ragtag group of backwater extremists have risen to international media heights and challenged the peace of mind and collective safety of the free world. Generally speaking, most people know little about them. A dangerous position, and if one man is historically noted as an expert on that point, it is Sun Tzu. In his classical masterpiece, the “Art of War,” Section III, Attack by Stratagem, he tells us, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Simply put, know your enemy.

What’s in a name

One notable concern regarding this understanding of our enemy is that we cannot seem to simply agree on what name to call them. The Islamic State in Iraq and as-Shām are also commonly known as ISIS, IS, ISIL, or DAIS (pronounced Daesh). The lattermost is based on the acronym of their latest name, Dawlat al-Islāmiyya fī al-Irāq wa s-Shām. Simply put, beyond the most popular term used, ISIS, we should be calling them Daesh, as it’s perceived by the enemy as a derogatory term. Kurdish coalitions have been using the term Daesh for the majority of the conflict.

Also, if one considers the title Islamic State, it provides a sense of statehood, sovereignty, and recognition as one would bestow upon a nation. The free world has not bowed to such a thing and Daesh, a group of terrorists who conquer by way of fear and slaughter, should not be presented with any such honors. There are also reports that anyone using the term Daesh, if overheard by them, “will have their tongues cut out.”

So fuck those guys. Daesh it is.

We should be using Daesh, because it is always best that your adversary understands you when insulting them. The derogatory meaning is found in the Arabic verb سعد , meaning to “tread underfoot, trample down, or crush.” There is another root which refers to the Jāhiliyya (pre-Islamic) conflict between two Arab tribes on the Arabian Peninsula, ءاربغلاوسحاد – Dāhis wa’l-Ghabrā’, which can be literally translated as “felon and dust.”

The current structure is quite similar to the ancient structure.

Ideological roots

The so-called Islamic State (IS), or Daesh as they will henceforth be referred to, is a jihadi-Salafi militant organization in Syria and Iraq whose primary goal is the establishment and expansion of an Islamic caliphate under harsh Sharia Law. The caliphate is an antiquated concept and a fine example of failing the future by reverting to the past. The notion of the caliphate arose after Muhammad died in 632 A.D., and the court that centered on his seat of power was left to figure out what to do.

Muhammad’s self-centralized governance presented a serious dilemma for the new policymakers of his empire: Who was to succeed a man they considered the prophet of Allah? The only working model for their military and political complex was based on a sole leader allegedly under the authority of Allah. Prior to Muhammad’s death, there was little publicized thought as to who was to succeed his throne. After conflict and debate, Muhammad’s father-in-law, Abu Bakr, was christened the khalifah or “successor” of Muhammad. This move brought about the evolution of Islam and the political/social construct, the caliphate.

The modern caliphate is essentially a representation of the old ways of Islam, so it should come as no surprise that religious fundamentalist zealots are committing acts of terrorism and murdering innocents in effort to return to it. The Islamist following that is leading this and is at the core of Daesh is Salafism. Salafi comes from the Arabic expression ‘as-salaf as-saliheen,’ in reference to the first three generations of Muslims, also known as the Pious Predecessors. Salafis believe in a centuries-old Sunni conservative teaching which was developed to emulate the teachings of Muhammad. The teachings of Salafism have no recognized established hierarchy within Islam, although the movement has been growing in numbers and lethality in China, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Sweden, Syria, and the UK.