World News

08.24.14

Mistaken Identity: A Bra Line Named ISIS

A think tank and a lingerie line struggle to prove that they have nothing to do with the infamous terrorist group that shares their name.

Aside from the menace the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is proving to be in the Middle East, its acronym is having the unintended consequence of ruining the reputation of NGOs, damaging a new line of lingerie and defaming an ancient Egyptian goddess of love.

For some organizations, the emergence of a terrorist group with a similar acronym is a threat to their very existence.

The Institute for Science and International Security is a non-profit group that works on nuclear nonproliferation issues, and the Islamic State could ruin their lives’ work. For example, their Twitter is now continuously receiving messages meant for the terrorist group.

“We’re a non-profit, we’re an NGO. We live off of our visibility, and this really compromises our reputation—not to mention that we work in the national security arena,” said spokeswoman Serena Vergantini. “we’ve never laughed about it.”

In the U.K., the lingerie retailer Ann Summers has chosen the absolute worst time to launch its new line, which is named after the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. One employee from the company told The Independent that they had just gotten rotten luck, and that the name was finalized months ago. By the time the Islamic ISIS emerged in the news, it was too late to change the name.

Institute for Science and International Security president and former UN arms inspector David Albright said that the ancient goddess, who represented an idealized woman and mother, also inspired his think tank’s name.

“The Islamic State, a murderous, anti-feminine terrorist group, has inappropriately used the name of an Egyptian goddess, whose mythology includes bringing life from death,” Albright said.

“Overall, we encourage the use of ISIL, because that is the acronym used by both U.S. government and United Nations,” Vergantini said. "All we’re simply trying to do is to have people stop using the acronym ISIS.”

ISIS is also the name of an international development NGO, an investment group, a scientific consulting company—even a Bob Dylan song.

Albright’s think tank has reached out to several news organizations, including the Washington Post and New York Times, to ward them off the ISIS acronym, and is planning on reaching out to more.

“Overall, we encourage the use of ISIL, because that is the acronym used by both U.S. government and United Nations,” Vergantini said. “All we’re simply trying to do is to have people stop using the acronym ISIS.”

One person who might object to that is Jim Elwood, the executive director of the International Society for Individual Liberty, a libertarian group that, among other objectives, wants to privatize water in South America.

On Thursday night he got into a screaming match with a “drunk redneck” from Florida, who was yelling about “Muslim pigs.” The man left several “obnoxious voicemails” on his number, he said. “It would be nice for them not to be referred to as ISIL.”

“It’s a completely different organization, I hope you understand,” said Elwood, when reached by phone.