BBC: The “Islamic State” isn’t real

When I read the BBC’s description of the killing of a French priest by “IS soldiers” this morning, the subheader referred to the “So-called Islamic State”.  It’s no longer there now, but you can see it in a Google search:

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 12.22.49 PMNow given that that’s the adopted name of the group of Islamist fighters who are committing terrorist attacks, as well as killing people willy-nilly in Iraq and Syria, I wondered why they used the “so-called” monicker.  I didn’t have to look far, because I found a senior BBC news producer giving the explanation on Quora. Here’s a screenshot of David Waddell’s answer

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 12.21.01 PM
Well, I’ll be.  Waddell’s reasoning, of course, is a post facto exercise in justifying his apologetic prejudices.  The state is certainly Islamic, and whether “the majority of the world’s Muslims want nothing to do with it” is completely irrelevant. Most Baptists probably want little to do with the Westboro Baptist Church, so should that church change its name? The official name of the Christian Science faith is the “Church of Christ, Scientist.” I think Waddell should call it “The so-called Christian Science church” because a. most Christians want nothing to do with it and many don’t consider it “real Christianity”, b. Christ was most definitely not a scientist, and c. there’s no real science in “Christian Science.”

As for not calling ISIS a state, there’s a bit more justification in that, but no more than in putting quotes around “Christian Science” because it isn’t science. To be true to his principles, Waddell has to recognize this, and tell the BBC that it must always refer to that church as the so-called “Christian Science Church.”

If the BBC can’t even bear to call ISIS by the name it chose for itself, the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (or “ISIL”, with the “L” standing for “Levant”), then it’s simply editorializing in a way unseemly for an organization like the Beeb.

To use a phrase I hate, just sayin’. . .


  1. Posted July 26, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Yep, the BBC is editorializing, and it does so quite a lot in its attempts to exonerate religion.

    There was an attempt a while ago to get the BBC to say “Daesh”, because that doesn’t include the English phrase “Islam” and so doesn’t implicate Islam (though of course it does in Arabic). The “so-called” was a compromise following that debate.

    I long for them to use the phrase “the so-called Archbishop of Canterbury”, though of course I’ll be forever disappointed. 🙂

    • Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      OMG, Jon Snow on Channel 4 News this evening has just declared that IS is “not in any way Islamic”.

      • sensorrhea
        Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        It’s really shocking when people in the media claim that ISIS literally has NOTHING to do with Islam. The finest Orwellian self blinding.

        ISIS is an extreme and pretty unpopular sect of Islam but CLEARLY lies on a continuum from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and not all that far from them.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        not in ANY way?? It may be in some questionably legitimate or eccentric way, but in NO way is obviously an exaggeration.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      If you call them ‘Islamic State’ that’s half-way towards legitimising them as a ‘State’.

      I don’t want to see this bunch of vicious thugs encouraged in any way. That’s why I think the ‘so-called’ (with its slightly contemptuous overtones) should remain in perpetuity. Or at least until every last one of them* is wiped off the face of the earth.


      (*IS, not Muslims in general).

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 3:51 am | Permalink


    • George Millo
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:18 am | Permalink

      Rod Liddle wrote a short article a few months ago where he argued that the name “Daesh” is helpful, not because he thinks we should use it, but because it can save you time. When someone says “Daesh” instead of “ISIS” it’s a handy giveaway that they have absolutely no understanding of the situation at hand and their opinion can safely be ignored.

      He may have been being facetious, but since reading that piece I’m yet to see a counterexample. Every single person I’ve ever heard say “Daesh” has invariably turned out to have absolutely no clue what they’re talking about on the subject of Islamic extremism.

      • Cindy
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:35 am | Permalink

        Which is dumb.

        I am extremely critical of Islam, and i use the word “Daesh” on occasion, but only because it is an *insult* and not because I want to appease Muslims.

      • Posted July 29, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        Heather might take exception at that!


  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Dave Rubin said this recently about something else: “it’s really that simple”. About 9/11, Hitchens said something like “never ignore the obvious”. With the disease of religion, it takes an intellectual acrobat to avoid those ideas, and it looks like Waddell is making a show of it.

  3. Kevin
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Butterflies and children’s laughter. There can be nothing evil in God’s creation. These people (children) want a world governed by white winged angels and fairy godmothers.

  4. John Crisp
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    The BBC used to just call it the Islamic State, but government pressure was brought to bear on them not to grace the organization with the title:

  5. kevind
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Whilst an individual BBC journalist may have used it the BBC as a whole didnt for quite a long time and got a lot of grief about it from other media and politicans. They were pushed to use Daesh and seem to have settled on so-called as a compromise.
    So the editorialising has less to do with the BBC being soft on religion and rather the former PM and friends being so and the BBC deciding it wasnt worth the hassle.

  6. somer
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Please Please can we just stop the naivety Olympics!

    • Cindy
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink


  7. bugfolder
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I think the TV station of so-called “Great” Britain has a valid point.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 3:59 am | Permalink

      “Great” refers to the relative size of the main island of the British Isles, not its status in world politics.

  8. somer
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    ISIS might be fairly unIslamic in their use of Takfir, but otherwise just a hardline version, reverting to …
    Australia’s Sheik Hilaly, in the Mount Sidon recording of 2004, hankers in this speech for a return to the days with the Berber states could impose tribute on nations in return for the safe passage of their ships, whilst wholesale raiding the coast for slaves

  9. Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  10. nicky
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    If Waddle would have taken the trouble to read the “Islamic Trilogy”: The Qur’an, the Hadith and the Syra, he would indeed have to admit that the ‘so called’ Islamic State is indeed correctly called so.

  11. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Well-said, but let it be noted that Google returns 8000 hits on the in-quotes (all words must be consecutive) phrase “so-called Christian Identity” – a white supremacist movement with more than a tad more in common with ISIS than Christian Science, with only 88 hits on “so-called Christian Science”

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, a bug in Google. 109 hits on so-called CI, 88 on so-called CS.

  12. Posted July 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    The BBC has been using the ‘so called’ formulation for a while. I call them the ‘so-called BBC’.

    • Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      This makes no sense. Organizations call themselves things all the time that don’t always fit. In Iran, you have the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which can be every bit as thuggish and destructive as ISIS. Should we start calling them “so-called” as well because there version of Islam does not fit the sanitized version?

  13. Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Islamic State is a state, of course it is. It has its own administrative and governmental structures, a judicial system, an army, a taxation system, an economic system, international trade relations and land. All it lacks are international recognition and legitimacy.

    There is no other explanation for the BBC’s mealy-mouthed ‘so-called’ usage but its tiresomely paternalistic wish to exculpate Islam from being partially responsible for the rise of ISIS.

    The next thing we’ll be told is that to call ISIS by its proper name is hate speech.

    • Tom
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      The BBC is desperate to appear a “responsible” news source even if it means sacrificing the truth on altar of “multiculturalism”
      After all, as Pilate pointed out “what is the truth?”

      • Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Independent headline tomorrow on the murder in the cathedral: ‘An abomination against Christianity and Islam’.

        Now not only are Muslims the primary victims of a jihadist atrocity in the west, but so is Islam. Islamists are rarely this blatant; they go for the anti-racist defense. It takes ultra-gullible and theologically ignorant regressives openly to defend the religion.

  14. jimroberts
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink


  15. Posted July 26, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s only days since the BBC announced that a ‘Syrian migrant’ had died in a ‘German blast’.

  16. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    If this Bloke from the BBC had been living in Mosul or Fallujah the past couple of years would he have called them so-called ISIS cities?

    • Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      He would have called Mosul a so-called take over by a so-called army. My, those so-called bullets and tanks sure are effective.

  17. Posted July 26, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    So-called “United” Kingdom?

  18. Justin
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I listen to the BBC World Service on a daily basis at work and listen to it for about 4-5 hours each day. They repeatedly use the phrase “so-called Islamic State,” but occasionally I’ll catch someone slipping up. It’s quite a shame, really.

    • Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      I have noticed this pattern. The reporter refers to ‘so-called Islamic State’ when s/he mentions it for the first time. Thereafter, s/he will say, ‘Islamic State’. It happens so often that it must be policy.

  19. Sarah
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I never thought about the Islamic part being in question, but just because it calls itself a state doesn’t mean that it is one. It is no more a “state” than the Baader-Meinhof gang was a “state”. If it called itself “the Glorious Resurrected Universal Caliphate”, would we expect the media to call it that without some qualification?

  20. Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Right now, this is the story Muslims are getting angry about in the UK:

    Fireman Sam in Islamophobia row after character ‘stands on Koran’

    And why are Muslims watching Fireman Sam shot by shot for signs of Islamophobia?

    Because of this in 2012:

    Fireman Sam creator detained at airport for veil comment at security gate

    • Cindy
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      If all religions are equally violent, as apologists for Islam like to stay, then why haven’t Mormons murdered the cast of the play “The Book of Mormon”

    • George Millo
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:33 am | Permalink

      Seems like a missed opportunity. They could have made a follow-up episode where Sam travels around the Middle East and North Africa putting out all the British embassies that rioters have set ablaze.

  21. aljones909
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    IRA were never called the “so called IRA”. Many Irish and many republicans did not support the IRA.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      But the IRA did not claim to be a ‘state’.

      And for the most part, they were not insane like IS.


      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:07 am | Permalink

        IIRC they were usually referred to as the Provisional IRA.

        • aljones909
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:36 am | Permalink

          “Provisional IRA” wasn’t a media designation. The group which broke away from the IRA (which had called a ceasefire) gave themselves that title.

        • Richard
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:37 am | Permalink

          That’s because the original IRA split into two factions, the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA, both of whom claimed to be the real IRA (“Judean People’s Front – splitters!”). In 1972 the Official IRA declared a cease-fire, leaving only the Provisional IRA active.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          Thanks both of you for the explanation.

      • Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:40 am | Permalink

        Ironically Islamic State has far more justification for its moniker than the IRA (in its various forms) ever did. Its motivating ideology is clearly deeply Islamic in nature (despite Jon Snow’s claim cited above that black is white)and it has many of the features of a state.
        The IRA, on the other hand, were clearly never the real army of the Irish Republic; the name sprang from the Republican claim (going back to the Irish Civil War) that the Irish state was not legitimate.
        At the time the BBC never felt the need to point out the propagandistic nature of the name. That it has to do so with Islamic State is, as mentioned above, because of political pressure to deny that it is in any way Islamic.

  22. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the ‘so-called’, for two reasons. 1, it has a slightly contemptuous ring to it. And 2, whether Islamic or not by whatever definition, it is certainly not a ‘state’. ‘State’ implies a certain degree of organisation and acceptance of responsibility and there is no way the collection of vicious thugs, sadistic petty overlords, terrorists and insane religious maniacs that is IS should ever be dignified with the term ‘state’, however much territory they manage to invade.


    • philfinn7
      Posted July 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Yes – it seems to me that most people who object to the term object to the ‘state’ part of it, rather then the ‘Islamic’ part. Your description of them as thugs, overlords, religious maniacs etc applies to a few states that already exist. I suspect that if they do manage to establish territory and set up a ‘government’ over that territory, the rest of the world will need to deal with them as a state.

      • Posted July 26, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        Well, Phil I pointed out under comment 13 that ISIS does already act as a state.

        Back in the early 2000s, AQI, its predecessor form, adopted the bureaucratic model similar to that of AQ: only it did it at the local level in order to retain broad organizational control.

        We have two separate caches of administrative documents captured from ISIS from 2007 to 2009 which demonstrate its commitment to record-keeping in the manner of business practise. Furthermore, ISIS places a premium on local-fundraising. It does not get a lot of revenue from foreign sources so it can look more like a state. Instead, it receives money from road-tolls and export and import taxes.

        I outlined how ISIS acts as a state and I omitted its rational salary structure, welfare system and bureaucratized immigration policy, in which the suicide bomber corps is filtered and dominated by foreign fighters.

        Depending on circumstances, ISIS can claim to protect the up to 8 million or so inhabitants of the state. Despite its gangster protection rackets, for some under the Caliphate, it is marginally less bad to submit to that than to, say, Assad or the warlord tribes of Northern Iraq.

        Yet in the Anbar Awakening of 2009, those warlords, along with the US troops, fought against and nearly obliterated ISI: allegiances shift in the region as tribal peasants do what they can to stay alive.

        Finally, the Islamic State of Iraq was declared in October 2006, with its own Emir and Minister for War. They did not call themselves the ‘Islamic Army of Iraq’: they were and always have been an explicitly Islamist state-building enterprise. We do ourselves no good by pretending otherwise.

        When the BBC attaches the phrase, ‘so-called’ to ‘Islamic State’ we, who every day witness the BBC’s attempt to exculpate religion from the acts of its believers, know what is going on. And no, it’s not an attempt by the BBC to sneer at ISIS. Besides, the sneer just doesn’t work. The BBC does not say, ‘so-called El Salvador’.

  23. Katamari
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if news people at the BBC would be happy to argue the notion that you can’t be a Muslim if you support gay rights? Because most of the world’s Muslims don’t support tolerance of homosexuality, so they are in the minority (and therefore apparently cannot be Muslim).

  24. roadworker
    Posted July 26, 2016 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Waddell’s so called explanation is nothing more that an excuse for the Beeb’s wishy washy, so called stance ,on Islamist terrorism, that its had since at least the so called seventies.

  25. Posted July 27, 2016 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    ISIS follows the Quran to the letter, so how is it so-called? Muslims are emigrating worldwide, not to escape terror but to expand their territory! What with four wives and a dozen or more kids to each man (quite often demanding free benefits), within one generation they will outnumber citizens in each country. Plus Saudi-Arabia paying to build Mosques in each country, the takeover could be within TWENTY years.

  26. Mike
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    More pandering to supposed Muslim sensitivities.

  27. Gary
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    They don’t even seem to consider the fact that feeling the need to change language to avoid offending people, is kind of a problem in and of itself.
    Muslims are being treated like children and extremists are capitalising on this to push their agenda.

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