Summary of What ISIS Really Wants

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What ISIS Really Wants summary


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Governments across the world have proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) to be “un-Islamic.” In this hotly debated and widely read article, journalist Graeme Wood argues they are wrong and that to deny the deeply Islamic nature of the organization is to miss an opportunity to understand, and ultimately, destroy it. Drawing on interviews with leading scholars, as well as with Islamic State adherents and recruiters, Wood lays out the group’s interpretation of Islam and explains how its fundamentalist religious views shape its practices and objectives. The article has garnered some criticism for giving too much weight to the group’s fringe religious beliefs while excluding the complex political, social and economic forces that drive terrorism in the region. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends Wood’s deeply researched insights to policy makers, national security experts, and concerned citizens who want to understand the religious ideology that underpins ISIS and how that information can be used to defeat it.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What religious beliefs Islamic State holds,
  • How its beliefs fuel its penchant for violence and expansion, and
  • How understanding these beliefs can ultimately defeat it.

About the Author

Graeme Wood is a contributing editor at The Atlantic.



Islamic State (ISIS) is not just a group of “psychopaths” or simply an extension of al-Qaeda. Its basis is a coherent, learned Islamic narrative based on a strict interpretation of Islamic texts. ISIS aims to return civilization to the 7th-century legal environment the Prophet Muhammad outlined. Its...

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