ISIS' Many Monikers Explained

The story and confusion behind ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2014 2:00 PM CDT
ISIS' Many Monikers Explained
In this undated file photo posted on Aug. 27, fighters from the group that calls itself the Islamic State group pray in Raqqa, Syria.   (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, File)

You've likely seen different names thrown around this summer in reference to the group that beheaded two American journalists and wreaked havoc in the Middle East. But which is the right one? Jonah Blank, formerly of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that the Islamic State, the name favored by the group itself, isn't it. "They're claiming to represent all Muslims everywhere—they have declared the establishment of a new caliphate," he says. "So if they are to actually own this term, that'll be a huge propaganda victory for them." Plus, the "Islamic State" name gives members the impression that they're not terrorists but "freedom fighters," fighting for something that "has a real meaning" to Muslims, Blank says.

Some women who are named "Isis" aren't big fans of "ISIS," the short form for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, either, CNBC reports. Plus, that version of the name also spouts confusion. Syria is a direct translation of the term "al-Sham" within the group's Arabic name. However, that term actually means "Greater Syria," or "Syria, Lebanon, parts of Turkey, parts of what are now Jordan," Blank says. A little confusing, no? "The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" is less so, since the Levant is another name for the large region, Blank says, which is probably why President Obama favored "ISIL" in his prime-time address this week. However, as the region's borders have shifted over the years—once including Israel and Cyprus—that term, too, can be a bit hazy. (More Islamic State stories.)

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