What if ‘Loulou’ could kill ‘Daesh?’

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While having lunch with the family a couple of days ago, ‘Daesh’ came up. It always comes up. There seems to be nothing more pressing or shocking these days. There definitely is, but within our finite vision of what is catastrophic, a terrorist group claiming to be an Islamic renaissance, while killing everyone in sight, rightfully earns its place as a Lebanese table conversation.

Like a lot of Lebanese Muslims, my parents are both devout and liberal at the same time. Obviously, they hate that ‘Daesh’ is an acronym for the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ (ISIS). My mother angrily argues, “This is not Islam!” yet however the group’s name changes, ‘Islam’ remains part of it. With time, ‘Daesh’s English acronym, ISIS, evolved to ‘IS’ for ‘Islamic State,’ standing for a poignantly rude, self-proclamation of a subjective yet official ‘Islamic State.’

I agree. Who wouldn’t be bothered if their beliefs are used as a cover for something that is the exact opposite? I jokingly propose the group’s name changes to ‘Loulou’ or ‘Lucy’ in mainstream media. It would make them hilarious, and eventually dumb them down, shifting them from representatives of an aggressive Islam to a name of a sugary crêpe on a local restaurant chain’s weirdly titled menu items. The joke did not go well. I do believe, though, that killing ‘Daesh’ should come as a strategic muting of their misleading brand, rather than a military intervention exclusively.

It’s not like the international community needed more reasons to convince itself that Islam is the devil. ISIS is not the first introduction of Islam as something violent to popular media. Hollywood feature films showcase Muslims as angry monkeys and television series produce a multitude of scenarios of how Islam is a constant threat to daily life. Nowadays, Islam is the ambassador of horror. Everyone is scared of it, including Muslims. I’m not a believer, but this is just not right. There must be a way to mute ‘Daesh’ and take it off the radar of international perception as Islam’s wild child. What if we kill ‘Daesh’ by refusing the narrative it seeds and propagates about itself?

A couple of hours after my family lunch, I read that the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, announced that his ministry will be calling ISIS with its Arabic acronym ‘Daesh’ from now on. This is interesting for two main reasons. The terrorist group’s administration and militants hate this nickname for its derogative phonetic and connotation in Arabic. Additionally, it would act as a meaningless proper noun for a non-Arabic speaking audience to avoid offense to Islam every time the terrorist group is mentioned. They will become, the terrorist group ‘Daesh’ instead of ISIS, the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.’

It makes sense. To kill a culture, old, new or blooming, one needs to kill its story and its name. Killing a name is an aggressive tool to mute an identity. It has been historically effective in a multitude of scenarios. While this is a completely different context, one of the most famous examples of erasure in our region is the strategic obliteration of Palestine since the expulsion of Jews from Europe into their adopted ‘promised’ land. World maps have been replacing Palestine with Israel successively. In doing so, Palestine has been practically disappearing. In quite sad news, most recently Jordan has removed Palestine from its schoolbooks to replace her with Israel. It’s not the nicest act from a sister Arab country with half of its population constituting of people with Palestinian origin.

If nothing stops such calculated erasure mechanisms, we need to accept that Palestine – in name, history and culture – will be lost and dispersed globally generation after generation. It will sadly live through its mundanities, through hummus and falafel, until Israel claims them as theirs, sending Palestine into a historical abyss. The Israeli authorities understand the multifaceted nature of contemporary wars, and are deleting everything they consider a threat to their sovereignty, basically our mere existence, and we are yet to catch up.

With ‘Daesh’ as our latest addition, everything seems to be threatening Arab sovereignty nowadays. Arab nations want to win wars over each other. Internally, each cares less about helping the other, but rather takes pride in triumphing over its trembling sisters. Externally, the international narrative is one of vocal compassion towards today’s Arab unsettlement while supporting Israeli actions. Extremist militias are taking over Arab lands with terrorizing slogans of a regressive violent Islam.

In Lebanon, the situation is getting very serious, yet there is no active, serious effort to eradicate this fundamentalist plague from the country. As members of our army are dying brutally in the hands of such militias in the north, we continue to empower them by fortifying their horror narrative. We share their videos on social media platforms. They dominate our conversations online and off. Our news broadcasts push them into popular media. We make them famous by consuming their media and producing our own that is focused on them.

By using ‘Daesh’s narrative, we are accepting them. What if we agree on shaking that narrative altogether instead of endorsing it? What if we stop sharing their macabre audiovisuals? How about we take them off the pedestal we created for them? As we wait for our government to do something about it, we can kill ‘Daesh’ within our limited scale and scope of action. Instead of applauding the West for being considerate enough to consider the presence of a peaceful Islam, and refusing to link it to a terrorist group, it’s our duty to take the matter in our own hands. As banal as it sounds, ‘Loulou’ could be the beginning of their end.

Raafat Majzoub is an architect, author and artist living in Beirut


IS is not islamic at all. Murder and killing are getting too much these days. I hate reading newspaper for this reason. I do not like living in this world anymore.

good point of view and worth a try at least.
still I don't think everyone wants it to disappear!

extremely wise thoughts Mr. Majzoub. This exploitation of media channels - mostly the web - is part of the "carefully planned" strategy: playing on the superficiality that is widespread all over the world, whoever controls Loulou's organisation gets a fast recognition with very little effort. Downplaying (using mocking tools) this purported international recognition - in the worst case - would at least push them (and their financiers) to struggle more to get whatever they are aiming to.

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