Meanwhile, Liberal Christians go to great pain to express their conviction that Islam is a religion of peace and that the majority of Muslims are horrified by the atrocities committed by extremist organisations like Islamic State (IS), Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, and Boko Haram.
I do believe that most Muslims are non-violent, but anybody who criticises anything Islamic is at once almost universally accused of being islamophobic, and I have problems with that. Excessive political correctness kills freedom of speech. Respectful criticism must be possible.
Attacking people personally and on an emotional basis makes any open and rational discussion impossible. This is exactly like accusing people who criticise Israel of being anti-Semites. I'm sure that anti-Semites criticise Israel and that islamophobes criticise Islam, but that doesn't automatically imply the reverse. A mathematician would say that criticising aspects of Islam is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being islamophobic.
Personally attacking critics and discrediting them is an old and well-established practice to try to shut them up, regardless of how unfounded the accusations are. Progress only takes place when discussions are based on facts, and accusations of islamophobia, like those of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, Fascism, and stupidity have nothing to do with rationality. Even accusations of ignorance intended as insults are not appropriate: if you think that somebody is in error, show them the facts that disprove what they believe to be true.
The problem is that some people don't want to see the truth. You will never be able to convince them! But I am digressing. To bring the subject of this article back into focus, I will quote here some verses of the Qur'an concerning jihad. I will rely on the translation into English made by Dr. Muhammad Taqî-ud-Dîn Al-Hilâlî and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khân printed by the King Fahd complex for the printing of the Holy Qur'an, Madinah, Saudia Arabia. The comments in round parentheses were added by the translators for clarity. My comments are in square brackets.
2:191 urges to kill the disbelievers:
And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [The translators refer to the following note: polytheism, to disbelieve after one has believed in Allâh, or a trial or a calamity or an affliction] is worse than killing. And fight not with them at Al-Masjid-Al-Harâm (the sanctuary at Makkah), unless thy (first) fight you there. But if they attack you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.
8:60 says that you should use whatever you can to go against the disbeliever:
And make ready against them [those who disbelieve] all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery) to threaten the enemy of Allâh and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allâh does know. And whatever you shall spend in the Cause of Allâh shall be repaid unto you, and you shall not be treated unjustly.8:65 urges the believers to fight:
O Prophet (Muhammad)! Urge the believers to fight. If there are twenty steadfast persons amongst you, they will overcome two hundreds, and if there be a hundred steadfast persons they will overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are people who do not understand.9:5 directs the believers to kill those who oppose Islam unless they convert and pay a tax:
Then when the Sacred Months (the 1st, 7th, 11th, and 12th months of the Islâmic calendar) have passed, then kill the Mushrikûn [those who practice idolatry or polytheism and plot against Islam] wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât) [the Muslim prayer], and give Zakât [a tax], then leave their way free. Verily, Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.9:29 urges to fight against the non-believer but to tolerate the Jews and Christian if they pay a tax and submit:
Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allâh, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allâh and His Messenger (Muhammad) (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islâm) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.47:4 explains how to deal with the disbelievers:
So, when you meet (in fight -- Jihâd in Allâh's Cause) those who disbelieve, smite (their) necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives). Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e. free them without ransom), or ransom (according to what benefit Islâm), until the war lays down its burden. Thus (you are ordered by Allâh to continue in carrying out Jihâd against the disbelievers till they embrace Islâm and are saved from the punishment in the Hell-fire or at least come under your protection), but if it had been Allâh's Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you). But (He lets you fight) in order to test some of you with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allâh, He will never let their deeds be lost.These are the verses that groups like IS quote in order to justify their Jihad against anybody who disbelieve. And in their strict interpretation, even non-Sunni Muslims are disbelievers.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all "People of the Book", but there is a fundamental difference between how Jews and Christians see their holy books (Thora and Bible) and how Muslims see the Qur'an: while the Jewish and Christian books were inspired by God, the Qur'an was written by God himself, who spoke through Muhammad. That is, Muhammad was the messenger of Allah, not just a prophet. This makes the Qur'an unchangeable, as it directly expresses the will of God. This is also why the most conservatives Muslims take the Qur'an literally and even the most progressive Muslims cannot reject it, although they do not practice jihad like IS does.
I know little about Islam and have only started studying the Qur'an recently. Therefore, I cannot claim in the least to be an Islamist. But the verses I listed above, when you think that they come directly from your God, do not leave you much flexibility: if you don't follow them, you ignore the will of God.
This obviously is the conundrum that all peace-loving Muslims (and I believe that they are the vast majority) find themselves in: they cannot reconcile peacefully living side by side with non-Muslims when their God tells them to kill the unbelievers.
I only see a solution: reform.
There have been reforms in Judaism and Christianity. Furthermore, both Jews and Christians almost continuously adjust and adapt their religion practices and rules as the predominant views of modern society evolve. But Islam has remained the same since the seventh century. In fact, simply by suggesting that Islam should be reformed could be seen as a form of disrespect towards the Qur'an, Allah, and his messenger Muhammad. In some countries, it would be reason enough to throw me into jail. And a mob of fanatics could punish me by beating me up to death.
This is why the subject is taboo even in moderate Muslim circles. But, in my opinion, there is no alternative. Muslims must bring Islam in line with XXI century's sensibilities.
While Islam must change from the inside, we westerners also have a responsibility: we should stop saying that Islam is a religion of peace and try to explain Jihadism as a product of social disadvantages. Feeling marginalised, isolated, and discriminated against certainly plays a role in the radicalisation of Muslim youth. But I believe that the main reason for their willingness to fight against the unbelievers is the fact that the Qur'an says so! How can you educate young men and women that the Qur'an should guide their lives and then ask them to ignore some of its verses? It doesn't make sense. That's why IS can so easily convince young people to fight.
We westerners should also start supporting in a determinate and deliberate way those few Muslims who call for a reform of Islam, instead of systematically siding with the moderate Muslim groups (i.e., the vast majority of Muslims) that put their collective head in the sand by refusing to take a stand for reform.