Pagan News and Views Since 1998
Every day I read about Isis in the headlines. Isis killed this one. Isis attacked that one. Isis threatens the future. As a Pagan and a devotee of the Goddess Isis, I find this very upsetting. Except of course it isn’t “Isis” the Pagan Goddess that they are talking about, but “ISIS” the terrorist group in the Near East.
If it were that simple of course, I would be upset with the terrorists for using a name that accidentally coincides with a deity I worship, but I would just have to deal with it. After all, their name is their name, and they are horrible people who do horrible things. The problem with this is that there is no terrorist group in the Near East called “ISIS”. The terrorist group is called ISIL –the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ISIL is what they call themselves, and what official government sources, including the US government, also call them. Since their name is ISIL, why anyone would call these terrible people anything else?
Granted this group of terrorists has changed its name a few times. At one point it was called ISI –the Islamic State of Iraq. Then briefly it did indeed call itself ISIS –the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria- but not for long. It very quickly changed its name to ISIL –the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant. Today it is either ISIL or IS (for “Islamic State”). This is their official name in English (it is DAISH in Arabic) and it is not only what they call themselves, but also what governments and other official sources call them.
I find it extremely hard to understand why anyone in the media would insist on calling them “ISIS” when the group does not call itself that, and official government sources also do not call them that. The fact that they call themselves ISIL is actually something that people should be hyper-aware of, as it signals the group’s intention to take control the entire Levant. The Levant is the entire region. This is a group that has an evangelical message of terrorism, and they themselves are telling us through the adoption of the name ISIL that they have no intentions of limiting that terrorism to a small area. Yet a large portion of the media seemingly refuses to use the name ISIL, and clings to ISIS. Why?
This is deeply upsetting to followers of the Goddess Isis. Isis is an extremely popular deity in Western Paganism. The Fellowship of Isis, headquartered in Ireland, is the largest Goddess Spirituality organization in the world, with members around the globe. Isis is also understandably important in the various strains of Egyptian/Kemetic spirituality that flourish around the world, and has been a feature of some strains of Hermeticism for hundreds of years. Isis is also an important Goddess in various forms of Wicca and similar religions. People from these differing backgrounds are naturally upset to find themselves unwittingly identified with an evangelical terrorist organization because of the accident of the English acronym that that terrorist group is being called by coinciding with the name of their deity.
Islam is vehemently anti-Pagan. Pagans, such as the Yazidis in Iraq (a form of Zoroastrianism), would be the first people forced to “convert or die” by a group like ISIL. Yet I have received letters from distressed Pagans who have been accused of supporting terrorism or endorsing shariah law by people who could not, or would not distinguish between “ISIS” the evangelical terrorist group and Isis the ancient Goddess. I have received letters from mothers, Pagan and non-Pagan alike, whose daughters named Isis are being harassed at school.
This would be upsetting but understandable if there were actually an active terrorist group calling itself “ISIS”. That some people might confuse the followers of the Goddess Isis with the terrorist group calling itself ISIS is unfortunate but would not really be surprising. However, when the group’s name is actually ISIL and the media simply insist upon referring to them as “ISIS” it is more than unfortunate. It is deeply irresponsible.
The name “ISIL” clearly shows an intention of taking over the entire Levant. That is very significant. It is not something that should be being ignored. On the contrary, it should be being trumpeted from the rooftops to warn people, because it shows very clearly that this group has no intention of stopping with Iraq and Syria. Calling them ISIS, in addition to being inaccurate, also gives the impression that Iraq and Syria are the only areas in danger of being taken over by these horrible people. It is deceptive.
I have asked myself over and over why anyone in the media would insist on calling the Islamic State terrorists ISIS when they know that the name is actually ISIL. All sorts of things have been suggested to me as answers, including that the acronym is actually in Arabic (it isn’t, the Arabic acronym is DAISH). It is obviously a deliberate choice to use ISIS instead of ISIL, not a mistake or a misunderstanding. But why? Calling them ISIS is not only irresponsible and deceptive, but damaging to people who are totally unrelated to ISIL.
I ask myself, is ISIS just catchier than ISIL? If that is the reason it is a sad comment on contemporary journalism. There is no stretch of the imagination by which it is good journalism to call a group by a false name simply because it is catchier.
I ask myself, is there perhaps a deliberate attempt to create a false link in people’s minds between evangelical Islamic terrorism and Paganism? The two groups could not conceivably be more different, whether in history, religious teachings, or social attitudes. They also could not be more seriously opposed to one another. However they do have one thing in common, neither is Christian. But surely, I tell myself, no one would use a false name to describe an evangelical terrorist group simply to besmirch an innocent and unrelated group?
Yet there has to be a reason that the media are insisting on referring to ISIL as ISIS. It is too irresponsible, too incendiary, to simply be a careless accident.
I came across an article that might give part of the answer (http://nation.foxnews.com/2014/08/24/obamas-use-isil-not-isis-tells...). The article came from Fox News, and strongly championed the use of ISIS Vs ISIL. Why? For no other reason than because President Obama and the US government call the group ISIL. The article stated outright that the Fox media outlet was using ISIS specifically to gall to the president of the United States. The article explains that Fox News wants to keep Syria in the name, so that they can use the degeneration of the Syrian situation for partisan political points.
I ask myself about the first two possible reasons, and suspect that for some news media each may play a role. But the third reason, partisan politics, has been explicitly confirmed.
I must tell you that as a devotee of Isis, the Goddess, it makes my blood boil to think that unethical reporters are creating a false impression of a tie between people like myself and the evangelic terrorists of ISIL by using a name that they fully know to be inaccurate, just for a minor partisan advantage. In fact it makes my blood boil that so-called news organizations should be involved in partisan politics at all. There was a day when journalism was a calling whose members felt that they had a moral obligation to accurately tell the truth, not alter the news to suit partisan political ends. Journalists should not be doing things like using false names to describe terrorist organizations in order to help particular political parties. Unethical is not a strong enough word for it.
I cannot denounce the use of ISIS in place of ISIL in severe enough terms. Whether they are doing it because of carelessness, because ISIS is a catchier sound byte, or worst of all to advance a partisan political agenda, the news media should be calling the organization by its actual name, ISIL. Anything else is misleading people not only about the accurate name, but also about the group’s intentions. As a people we need to demand accuracy from our news media, and impartial reporting instead of tailoring the news to fit political opinions and agendas. Otherwise, we will never really know what is going on –just as many people do not know that the terrorist group is really called ISIL and has ambitions for the entire Near East. And if we do not really know what is going on, because we are being intentionally misinformed by our media, how can we possibly hope to meet the difficult challenges presented by groups that evangelize terrorism?