ISIS vs. Isis: The Rare Case for Political Correctness

I read this article on the Daily Mail a few days ago, and while it didn’t immediately sink in, an obvious thought resonated in my brain as I pondered the article more fully. In the article an Arizona couple struggled to conceive their first-born child. And so when their daughter was born in 2010 they named her after the Egyptian Goddess of Fertility, Isis. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Little did they know five years ago that their daughter would share a name with a terror organization.

Tragically, Isis was diagnosed at age five with a rare neurological disease, Rett Syndrome. This diagnosis came around at a time when she and her parents were already beginning to be harassed because of the girl’s familiar moniker. Her parents, in order to raise social awareness about her disease, printed bumper stickers with #TeamIsis emblazoned on them.

team isis ciara martinez


According to the parents and various media sources, the stickers didn’t go over too well. The harassment intensified, as drivers acted aggressively towards them, trying to force them off the road, and giving them the finger. According to the Daily Mail article, one of their friends whose car sports the #TeamIsis sticker was investigated for terrorism by the FBI… all over a sticker raising awareness for Rett Syndrome. Harassment has also come from the Twitter world, as #TeamIsis gets (understandably) confused with the Islamic State. Even their doctors and specialists advised the parents to change Isis’ name.


Thankfully, they’re sticking to their guns. Changing Isis’ name is out of the question! And I applaud them for this decision.

But my daughter’s name is beautiful, and she’s not the only one called Isis. It is an old name that has a beautiful meaning.

We are not going to change her name over this. We know what it means and so do so many other people.

It’s the Islamic State, not ISIS

Before you criticize me for hypocrisy for calling the group ISIS in previous posts, here’s my preemptive rebuttal.

In several of my posts and even in my “Burn ISIS Flag” videos, I’ve used ISIS and ISIL to refer to the Islamic State. This mostly came at a time during confusion over which acronym—if either—was preferred. The Islamic State dropped “Iraq and the Levant” and “Iraq and Syria” from their official name last summer. The media (and I) drifted through a period of confusion over what to call the group until we finally accepted their official title.

Unfortunately, not all in the media, the government, or society have adopted the new name. Various reasons exist: 1) the name explicitly highlights Islam (as opposed to ISIS, which hides it in an acronym), making some people uncomfortable, fearing it’s not politically correct. 2) Striking the geographical portion of the group’s name lends credit to the idea that the Islamic State no longer functions in only Iraq, Syria, and the rest of the Levant, but instead operates at a global level, which understandably might make people uncomfortable. And 3) most people are just too ignorant to realize they changed their name to the Islamic State.

It’s time to give this little girl back her name, dammit!

But if you’ve read this far, and if you previously fell into the third group of people, now you know that the name change occurred. If you fall into one of the other groups above, I say to you “grow up!” Being PC—not wanting to offend Islam by linking it with a terror organization—is just stupid. “The Islamic State” is just a name. They could call themselves “Rayan Zehn and His Atheist Papers Suck!” and I’d call them that because that’s the group’s fucking name! And if you think you’re giving them extra (and presumably magical) powers by using their actual name (a la Beetlejuice) then you’re a complete moron.

This little girl, Isis, and the hundreds and thousands of other girls and women named Isis throughout the years deserve to have their names back. We can’t hold them hostage to our fears, forcing them to change their names or harassing them with vehicular assault and twitter jackassery just because we’re idiots. ISIS the group doesn’t even fucking exist, so #TeamIsis is—in no way—a showing of support for terrorism.

Usually I could not care less about political correctness. But in this case being politically correct is being literally correct as well. And our stupidity is causing people to behave in a manner sufficient to cause a five-year-old girl with Rett Syndrome to suffer the sins of an unrelated Islamic terror regime.

So stop calling the Islamic State ISIS. Isis is a beautiful name for a girl (or maybe even a boy), conjuring images of health, marriage, and wisdom, the opposite of the images we usually associate with the Islamic State.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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2 Responses to ISIS vs. Isis: The Rare Case for Political Correctness

  1. I don’t think it’s about political correctness at all (whatever “political correctness” even means anymore). Rather, it’s about accuracy and being able to intellectually hold one’s horses before sending oneself into an obnoxious rage. Why are people getting angry when they haven’t even bothered to find out why they’re angry?

  2. ciara says:

    Thank you for writing this about our daughter. I’m just now reading it for the first time.

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