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An ancient moniker takes on sinister new meanings.
A terrorist by any other name would be just as evil, but for “thousands of women” named Isis, the initialism applied to the jihadist organization of the moment is a pressing concern.
While the White House refers to the fundamentalist group responsible for a string of recent beheadings as “ISIL,” for “the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” many media outlets prefer “ISIS,” translating the phrase “al-Sham” as “greater Syria” rather than “the Levant.” (ISIS itself has declared itself a caliphate and nixed any geographic markers: In their view, they’re now simply “the Islamic State,” and the only ones worthy of the title.)
Wading into this schism is Isis Martinez, a Miami mother and founder of a non-profit called the Holistic Health Fund, who has launched a petition asking the media to use “ISIL” exclusively. She claims that she and others with her given name—passed down from Egyptian mythology—have been victims of a “backlash” in recent weeks.
Not a personal attack on me but it’s an attack on the name Isis.Here’s what happened today when I texted a wrong # 🙁 pic.twitter.com/heG9SfsMRe
— Isis Martinez ॐ (@IsisMiami) September 14, 2014
There has been some reasonable pushback, however:
Public consensus or no, it’s unlikely that publications would change their style on account of a few irate Irises: Aside from hewing to their own internal standards of accuracy in reporting, rarely do they band together as an industry to simultaneously adopt a universal new standard for referring to a politically fluid foreign militia. Just ask Al Qaeda, my old college roommate.
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'