During the Cold War, American intelligence loved getting its hands on defectors from communism. The reasoning was that these people had the best information about the plans of the other side, information that would help America defeat them.
In the present war against what President Bush has properly labeled "Islamic fascism," defectors are just as valuable.
The Israel Project, an international nonprofit organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel, recently made a former leading imam and radical Islam expert available for media interviews and I had a chance to speak with him. He goes by the name of Sam Soloman because of death threats from those not happy with the information he has about their plans to dominate the world.
Soloman was brought up in the Islamic tradition and became a "recruiter," which he says is something like an assistant teacher. One of his responsibilities was "brainwashing people in the Koran." He tells me "The suicide bombers go through stages, and the most important stage is not when they blow themselves up. The most important stage is conforming them to the (Muslim) ideology. Once they are conformed to the ideology, the rest is easy. That is the role I had."
Soloman is in double trouble. Not only did he abandon Islam and the terrorists' objectives, he has also become a Christian, which has marked him for death. Born in the Middle East, he visited Washington from his adopted country, which he declines to name to protect his family.
Soloman speaks with knowledge, credibility and conviction. He has memorized large sections of the Koran and tells me, "There's not a single verse in the Koran talking about peace with a non-Muslim, with the Jews and the Christians. Islam means submission. Islam means surrender. It means you surrender and accept Islamic hegemony over yourselves..."
I ask him about the best strategy for fighting it: "It cannot be combated simply by force. It needs to be combated ideologically, spiritually (as well as) through arms."
Soloman says the outlets for Islamic ideology are religious - seminaries, the madrassas (Koranic schools) and especially the mosques. "From the beginning, Mohammed used the mosque to propagate this ideology. It was in the mosque that jihad was declared (and) that troops were sent to conquer the rest of the world. The mosque was the seat of government and Americans are right to be concerned about (their growth)."
He asks Americans to inform themselves about the real teachings of Islam and not to fall for what various Islamic groups say it teaches. Soloman says, "The simplest Islamic book you open" teaches that all unbelievers (in Islam) are profane people. "Because of the (Koranic) text and what it says, it incites violence." He begins quoting verses from memory, too quickly to write them all down. One is, "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush." (Surah 9:5)
"This kind of tactic of taking verses out of context can be used against any religious faith," says Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic civil rights and advocacy group. "It can and has been used against the Bible and has been used against the Quran."
"These verses deal with the real experience of the Muslim community at the time when they were under attack. It's not a general injunction to go out and harm people. The only people who take it that way are those who want to promote hostility toward Islam and Muslims. They would object if the same thing were done to their faith."
Yes, but virtually all Christians and Jews denounce the infinitesimal few who claim to be Jewish or Christian and use their "holy books" to justify violence against others as a direct command from God.
Asked whether the Koran commands the killing of or violence against all nonbelievers, Ali Khan, national director of the Chicago-based American Muslim Council, replied: "No. (That's) far from the truth. There's nothing in the Koran, no verse that I'm aware of, that advocates the killing of nonbelievers."
The terrorists and those who preach from mosques throughout the Middle East must be reading a different version, then, because virtually all of their sermons that I've read claim their God wants them to kill all "infidels."
Soloman says Americans must demand from the leading Islamic hierarchy, such as the Muslim World League and the Union of Imams, a fatwa that makes it clear "that this is not what the text means and that these texts are no longer effective. They have passed their date. But if they remain effective and eternally valid, then in America we have a serious problem."
How serious? He says. "They are infiltrating and undermining every part of this society. We are promoting Islamic mortgages, Islamic insurance companies. There are 29 banks in the United States promoting Islamic banking. Since 1999, Dow Jones has launched Dow Jones Islamic Index and has subjected itself to be governed by an international Sharia board." (Sharia is the religious law of Islam outlined in the Koran.)
Soloman adds, "The Islamic organizations have their missionaries and there are active or sleeping cells in this country." He mentions one, Tablighi Jamaat, "a Pakistani organization that is hand-in-glove with the Wahaabis, strong Muslim sects known for their strict observance of the Koran, and a strong facilitator of al-Qaida and other factions of terrorism. They alone have 1,000 missionaries in New York, 50,000 across the United States. This is only one organization. In 1994, I took a map and started putting pins in it. I found there is not a single state without a mosque. Since then (the number) has increased."
Americans must see past their natural reluctance to paint all members of a group with a broad brush and realize our failure to act now against this clear and present danger in the ways Sam Soloman recommends will lead to a disaster for us that is far worse than our Cold War enemies had envisaged.