Al-Qaeda. The Taliban. Boko Haram. The Islamic State. Islamic Jihad. Hamas.
Christians being beheaded. Muslims slaughtering Muslims. Schoolgirls being kidnapped. Schoolboys being burned alive.
These are the images of Islam that we see on the news day and night, but we are told repeatedly that this does not represent true Islam. Instead, we are told, these atrocities are examples of radical Islam, committed by savages who know nothing of the real faith, people who misuse the Koran for their own malicious purposes and who represent perhaps 15 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims.
That would mean that the vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving, with no desire to take over the world violently or enforce their religion on others by means of the sword.
Of course, I fully understand that there are many “moderate Muslims” who are not true Muslims any more than many liberal Christians are true Christians. In other words, they are nominal believers only.
But there are certainly many Muslims who claim to uphold the Five Pillars of Islam and who feel that they, and not the radical Muslims, are following in Muhammad’s footsteps. And they would explain that while it is true that their prophet engaged in violent acts of war and that the Koran calls for harsh treatment of the enemies of the faith, this is no different than the book of Joshua in the Old Testament – something that happened in the past but is not to be repeated today.
To be sure, the moment I speak up about a controversial issue that is happening today, such as Israel’s right to defend itself against Islamic terrorists, my social media pages are flooded with Jew-hating comments made by angry Muslims, expressing sentiments like, “the decimation and annihilation of Israel is coming soon inshaalllah [Allah willing]. End of Israel will be fact I'm sure.” And, “Can somebody resurrect Hitler? [The Jews] are chosen. Chosen to be killers. Rapists. Racist. Murderers and worshippers of satan . . .”
Do they represent the true spirit of Islam, or are these some of the 200-300 million “radical Muslims”? (By the way, whether “radical Islam” is normative or not, it is, without a doubt, a massive threat to the world today.)
As for the “moderate Muslims,” whom I don’t seem to hear from as much, the ones who do write do not seem not to be that religious, based on the sentiments they express.
I’m aware that statements have been made by respected Islamic leaders renouncing violent jihad, but for the sake of clarity, I’d like to ask some simple questions which, I believe, can be easily answered.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.