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.
If you uphold the Five Pillars of Islam and believe in the divine inspiration of the Koran and the reliability of the Hadith, I’d love to hear your responses to these questions.
The Islamic State has demanded that non-Muslims convert or die. Do you categorically and without qualification denounce the practice of forced conversions? Do you agree that conversion at the edge of the sword cannot possibly be true conversion?
All radical Muslim groups want to enforce Sharia Law. Do you stand against the implementation of Sharia?
There is a famous Hadith which states, “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. Then the stones or trees will call: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”
Do you categorically and without qualification denounce this tradition which allegedly goes back to Muhammad?
The concept of suicide bombers being shaheeds (martyrs for Allah) is widespread these days among radical Muslims.
Do you reject the idea that a suicide bomber who kills others – especially civilians – in the name of Allah is guaranteed a place in Paradise?
As you know, non-Muslims living in some Muslim countries have been reduced to severe second-class citizen status (dhimmitude, in full) and forced to pay the oppressive jizya tax. In some Muslim countries, they can be jailed or killed simply if someone accuses them of blaspheming Muhammad.
Do you categorically and without qualification denounce these practices and welcome non-Muslims to live as complete equals in your countries?
In quite a few Muslim countries, conversion is forbidden under penalty of death, which is obviously a fundamental assault on religious freedoms.
Do you categorically and without qualification denounce this practice and allow for free and open religious interaction as we have, for example, in the United States, with no corporal penalties for conversion?
We often hear horror stories of little girls being married to older men, along with honor killings of women who allegedly brought disrepute on their families.
Do you categorically and without qualification denounce the practices of child brides and honor killings?
There are many more questions I could ask, and I do so in the interest of understanding more than argument, since I would love to debate and discuss the deeper issues of our faith with those who renounce radical Islam.
The question many of us have here in the West is very simple: Is radical Islam normative Islam?
I look forward to reading your responses, and I encourage non-Muslim readers of this open letter to share it widely with your friends so as to reach the maximum number of moderate Muslims.
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.
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