Mbabane, Swaziland | 2 July 2014
Acronym: an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word (e.g. SADC, UNESCO)
Just when you thought the Middle East – an area covering southwest Asia and Northern Africa – couldn’t get any more complicated, the region has recently given birth to a new acronym.
Now I know what you might be thinking: the world already has enough acronyms; we don’t need any more jumbled combinations of letters to confuse us further. Please, God, no more.
But, I’m afraid to report, it is not to be. What’s more, this new acronym is far from friendly. In fact, it is sending chills down the spines of peace loving people all over the world.
It is an acronym that defines a movement dominated by hate and violence and intolerance. Four simple and innocent letters have been hijacked and given new meaning by a group of religious fanatics who will chop heads off in the name of God, not dissimilar to the Christians of yesteryear.
In the name of a so-called tolerant and loving God, unspeakable acts of intolerance are given legitimacy.
No, this new acronym is not of the fluffy NGO or government variety. It is not shortening the endless title of yet another sub-committee or strategic consortium. And it is certainly not simplifying anything, as the best acronyms do.
The new acronym is hogging the global headlines, and will likely continue doing so for some time.
The people working under the banner of this acronym have just declared a new country, which claims large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria – as if these two failing states didn’t already have enough on their plates.
The acronym I’m referring to is ISIS. It stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
It is unclear whether ISIS’s claim to the Iraqi and Syrian land with hold.
What does all this have to do with jargon and language?
In short, it shows the power and ruthlessness behind four unassuming letters. It serves to highlight how acronyms can obscure the often nasty reality behind the letters.
For weeks I was hearing this acronym – ‘ISIS this and ISIS that’ – and never bothered to find out what it meant. Nor was the international news doing a good job of breaking it down. Thank you, Google, for coming to my rescue.
Google led me to an article in The New York Times under the headline ‘How the Terrorists Got Rich: In Iraq and Syria, ISIS Militants Are Flush With Funds’.
I wish I was shocked to read how terrorists use charities and other ‘front bodies’ to raise funds which are put towards killing people.
‘In Kuwait on an evening in March, a soon-to-be auctioned 1982 Chevy Caprice Classic awkwardly sat parked on carpets outside a tent,’ the article begins.
‘Inside potential bidders were being asked to alleviate the suffering of Syrians with “humanitarian contributions.” Few could have had any doubt that once their money found its way to Syria, fighters – some affiliated with Al Qaeda – would decide whether to use it to buy aspirin for children or ammunition for killers.’
The article goes on to offer some suggestions on countering such behaviour.
‘We must strengthen border enforcement to intercept cash couriers, and step up anti-corruption efforts to ensure that groups cannot buy access or safe passage.’
It continues: ‘This requires mustering the political will to isolate deep-pocket donors in places like Kuwait and Qatar.’
In the face of grave global challenges, let me try to finish on a note of attempted humour.
I wish I could LMAO about this ever-growing ISIS threat, but unfortunately there’s not much to laugh about on this one.
Indeed, if one dares poke fun at ISIS they may poke a knife through you.