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In New Front Against ISIS, Dictionary Becomes a Weapon

French-Muslims-protest-ISIS-ReutersBy Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times

PARIS -- After the French mountaineering guide Hervé Gourdel was beheaded by an Algerian jihadist group aligned with the Islamic State last month, hundreds of Muslims gathered outside the Great Mosque of Paris to express their revulsion over the brutality of a group whose name and ideology, they said, was an insult to Muslims everywhere.

Some carried placards with the hashtag #NotInMyName, which has become a rallying cry on Twitter against the Islamic State.

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The term Daesh -- also sometimes referred to as Da'ish -- is an acronym of the group's Arabic name, Al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, according to Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, who studies the Islamic State and is now a researcher with the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. It is also used without being meant as an insult.

But, Mr. Tamimi said, the acronym has also been embraced by critics of the group, as the word could have negative connotations in the Arab world, since it is close to the word daes, meaning to tread underfoot, trample or crush. (Several residents of Mosul, which fell to the Islamic State in June, told The Associated Press that the Sunni militant group was so incensed about the use of the term Daesh that members threatened to cut off the tongues of anyone who uttered it.)

In the United States, Nihad Awad, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, said his group had settled on ISIS, though he personally referred to the group as "Daesh -- though sometimes I say 'the Evil State.'  " Because of its similarity to Daes, he explained, "it doesn't sound good." (Read more)

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