Thinking Critically About ISIS

By T. J. Smith In the spring of 2015, the Pew Research Center conducted a study investigating support for the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Muslim countries. They presented their findings in an article titled In Nations with Significant Muslim Populations, Much Disdain for ISIS.

Without getting into what ISIS is trying to accomplish, or looking at estimates of how many "apostates" they've slaughtered, I want to consider PRC's article, and how their facts are presented. I will outline two reminders of how we must read any such reports—and, secondly, as Christians, what our response to this situation should be.

We Must Read Carefully

The article points to an important truth: percentage-wise, the population's support of predominately Muslim nations is estimated to be quite low. But—and this is an important "but"—when interpreting any information, we must keep in mind four things: 1. the intent, 2. the source, 3. the information itself, and 4. the scope. For help remembering, these form the acronym I-S-I-S.

Intent: What's the author's angle? Is the author perhaps stacking the deck with a certain purpose? Consider any bias they might be showing.

Source: Who is writing it? Can they be trusted? Are they objective in their writing? What is their background? Do you have any reason to suspect they might be either censored or directed by their news agency?

Information: Is what is being stated true? Are they citing credible sources? Are they using sound logic? Read between the lines: are the facts being spun, twisted, or exaggerated?

Scope: What is being held up close, and most importantly, what is being ignored or swept under the rug? Look for the "man behind the curtain."

In this case, the Pew Research Center has neglected to mention that although a low percentage of Muslims say they support ISIS, the sum total of the population who say they support ISIS is quite a staggering number: by my calculation, just under 66.8 million people. Add to that the percentage who said they "didn't know," a whopping 238.5 million, and you have a grand total of 305.3 million people estimated to be either in support of, or indifferent toward, ISIS.


It is important that we do not identify all Muslims with those who act out their understanding of their faith militantly, whether by imposing their severe Sharia law or enacting nightmarish brutality, which is seen as abhorrent to many who call themselves Muslims. We must, however, consider the implications of holding every article and report up to the light; inspecting it using our four criteria.

It appears ISIS is not as benign and unpopular as the article would have us believe. To put it in perspective: According to this study, those who aren't against ISIS exceed three times the population of Germany in 1939.

We Must Pray

Let's hold up the citizens of these countries in constant prayer, both those who are indifferent to, and those who support, ISIS. As Christ Himself compels us, we need also to pray for ISIS members themselves: "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44 NASB).

Let's also pray intensely for our Christian brothers and sisters who are being systematically slaughtered and oppressed by this regime, as Hebrews 13:3 says: "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves, also are in the body."

We are bound with them.

T. J. Smith is an artist, husband, and lover of technology. He holds an MFA in Visual Arts. He dabbles in music, and loves to travel and meet people. He's committed to spreading Christ's hope for the world: the ability to be restored unto the Creator of the Universe. He takes joy in discovering the truths in the Bible which serve to make sense of, and illuminate his world.


The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, accessed July 18, 2016,

Jacob Poushter, "In Nations with Significant Muslim Populations, Much Disdain for ISIS," Fact Tank (blog), Pew Research Center, November 17, 2015, accessed July 18, 2016,

"State of Palestine," Wikipedia, last updated July 11, 2016, accessed July 18, 2016,

Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required