Much has been said recently as to whether or not the Islamic State is Islamic. President Obama explicitly said in September that “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’” The White House referred to ISIS as “violent extremists” rather than “Islamic extremists”. One hundred and twenty Muslim scholars wrote an open letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, accusing ISIS of misinterpreting Islamic law in order to justify horrific acts of violence, and arguing that not only does ISIS not represent Muslims, but that it isn’t at all Islamic (Ortega). Dar al-Ifta, a leading Islamic authority in Egypt, has even requested a change of name from ISIS to QSIS — “al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria,” in order to reject the “stereotypes that attach the name of Islam to bloody and violent acts committed by such groups” (Taylor).
On February 16, 2015, Graeme Wood said in no uncertain terms that the “reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.” In his 10,000-word cover story in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants,” Wood claims that the “religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam,” and while nearly all Muslims can and do reject ISIS, “pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it” (81). Wood’s article created a ripple in the media and inspired a flurry of response pieces, many taking issue with his claim of ISIS being Islamic.