An undated photograph of a man described as Abdelhamid Abaaoud that was published in the Islamic State's online magazine Dabiq.

In the wake of the bombing of the Russian plane in Sinai and the attacks in Paris, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS) seems bent on confrontation with the West. The group’s minute-by-minute statements, social media posts, and videos seem to offer a flood of concurring information.

Lost in the wash of information, though, has been an examination of ISIS’ precise religious ideology and how it informs the group’s strategy. Some have even cast doubt on the worth of such investigations. “There should be no ‘deeper understanding’ of the ISIS terrorists,” wrote the Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek on November 16, responding to the Paris attacks, which he described as “reactions to European brutal interventions.” Writing in The Wall Street Journal in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France earlier this year, the activist and author Ayaan Hirsi Ali likewise wrote that “today’s Islamists

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  • JACOB OLIDORT is Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and an Adjunct Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. These views are the author’s alone.
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