It’s important to know and understand the enemy, they reveal their mindset in how they describe themselves and by the words they speak.
Newly declared caliphate: Why it’s ‘ISIS’ (not ISIL) – ‘Iraq and al-Sham’ (not Syria)
By J.E. Dyer on June 30, 2014 at 11:37 pm
Many news outlets have Westernized the name of the group which has just declared a “caliphate” in the territory its name describes. (The ISIS video is embedded at the end of this post.) The media have often rendered the name Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Now that ISIS has formally declared its “caliphate,” however, it’s time to stop applying different conventions, and use the one that most accurately conveys what this whole thing is about. That name is the one ISIS uses: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.*
The reason this matters is that al-Sham and the Levant are not merely diverse cultural ways of referring to some territory on a map.
European authors in the Renaissance referred to the area that largely overlaps al-Sham as the Levant (for “rising,” in French; i.e., the East, where the sun rises). “Levant” has passed into common use among modern Westerners as a way to refer to the lands bordering the easternmost coast of the Mediterranean Sea, from southern Turkey down to Israel and Gaza.
The Arabic al-Sham sets the core of the land of al-Sham as Syria, which is called Bilad al-Sham, and means “land on the left hand.” You will also see al-Sham rendered as Greater Syria. (The name Syria descended to us from the Greek, through Roman usage, and is a whole other story.) Facing the sun from the holy sites in Saudi Arabia, al-Sham is on the left hand, and Yemen is on the right hand.