What ISIS Really Wants the Atlantic March 2015 The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it. Graeme Wood Graeme Wood tells of the ideology behind ISIS, how it got started and what distinguishes it from your Muslim neighbor. ISIS has an apocalyptic interpretation that makes “rational actor” theories irrational. Wood argues that unless we understand the motivations, we may choose (again) the wrong course of action. This is a long read, but to get past the cliches and generalizations, for a more nuanced conversation that may actually make a difference, it is well worth your time. However, Wood makes an error common among observers of Islam. Wood assumes that Muslims who do not believe this way have not fully understood their own text and are somehow less that fully Muslim. In Wood’s mind, ISIS apparently represents Islam carried to its natural conclusion. I have had my Muslim friends tell me that when Jesus promised a comforter that would follow him, he was speaking of Muhammad. That is what happens when non-Muslims proof text the Qur’an for Muslims or when non-Christians proof text the Bible for us. Do you really want to be defined and told what you believe because a subset of your faith tradition does bizarre things? The majority of Muslims do not do the things ISIS does. Their beliefs are informed by the traditions of Muhammad and his companions and the Qur’an, just as ISIS claim their actions are inspired by the same things. One does not naturally lead to the other. When our Muslim friends say they are repulsed by ISIS and that ISIS kills many more Muslims than any other group and that they could never follow a “caliph” like the self-appointed caliph al-Baghdadi, we need to observe how the majority of Muslims are living their lives and believe them. It is not fair to judge the majority by the actions of a reprehensible minority. That being said, the article is still useful as a western attempt to understand the ideology behind this subset of Islam and some of the historic origins of this movement.