Why AP uses 'ISIL' instead of 'ISIS'

Associated Press

The Qaida splinter group rampaging through Iraq is sometimes referred to as ISIS, for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. That translation isn't quite good enough, AP standards editor Tom Kent writes:

In Arabic, the group is known as Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The term “al-Sham” refers to Iraq and a region stretching from southern Turkey through Syria to Egypt (also including Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan). The group’s stated goal is to restore an Islamic state, or caliphate, in this entire area.

The standard English term for this broad territory is “the Levant.” Therefore, AP’s translation of the group’s name is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

“We believe this is the most accurate translation of the group’s name and reflects its aspirations to rule over a broad swath of the Middle East,” says John Daniszewski, AP vice president and senior managing editor for international news.

Using "Iraq and Syria" gives the incorrect impression that "the group’s aspirations are limited to these two present-day countries," Kent writes.

Shakir Waheib, a senior member of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), left, next to a burning police vehicle in Iraq's Anbar Province. (AP Photo via militant website, File)

Related: Is It ISIS Or ISIL? Jihadist Group Expanding In Iraq Has Two Names, One Goal (International Business Times)

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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