One of the biggest obstacles to a real understanding of the Islamic threat is the meme (it deserves that title) that Islam itself
is not innately violent and expansionist -- that the problem is inherent only in "radicals" and "extremists", that jihadism originates just with certain groups, certain governments, and certain sects, and that if only those specific malefactors were defeated, the danger would end, as Islam itself would then be able to peacefully co-exist with the rest of the world.
A person who believes this is not necessarily an Islamist sympa-thizer. He may not even necessarily be completely ignorant about the problem. He may simply be approaching it on the basis of some general theory of violent or insurgent movements which explains most such phenomena quite well but ill-equips him to understand Islam.
What causes people to hold the viewpoint described in the first paragraph is a lack of specific knowledge
. Fortunately, there is a simple and straightforward way to overcome that lack.Tell them to read the Koran
The Koran* defines Islam (along with the Hadîth, but the Koran is the supreme authority). It is Islam's "constitution"; it has the final say. No human version or interpretation of Islam that conflicts with the Koran can stand.
which I and others have stated -- that Islam itself
(not just particular Islamic groups or particular forms of Islam) is inherently violent, imperialist, misogynistic, and dangerous to global civilization -- is not merely an opinion or a point of view. It is an objective fact which can be proven. The most irrefutable proof lies in the Koran. The person who wants to avoid seeing the true nature of Islam can argue with what you or I or any given scholar says, but they cannot argue with the plain words of the Koran.
Anyone can read the Koran; it is much shorter than the Bible and somewhat less turgid, though even more repetitious. Not much background knowledge is necessary. The reader does need to know about the concept of "abrogation", which is how Islam deals with the problem of contradictions in the Koran: whichever verse is chronologically later simply cancels, or "abrogates", the earlier one (more here
). Also, the order in which chapters are presented in the standard Koranic text is not chronological, so one needs to know the order of revelation, but a good translation will explain this (chapters from Mecca are earlier, while those from Medina are later, basically). And make sure an accurate
translation is used; some English versions are slightly "sanitized" to avoid shocking infidel sensibilities.
Reading the Koran can also overcome some other, less common misconceptions about Islam:Islam has many valid forms and interpretations, as Christianity does
. The Bible is a collection of diverse documents spanning centuries; it is so incoherent and riddled with contradictions that one can take almost any stance on any issue and find support for it somewhere in the Bible. The Koran and Hadîth are a record of the statements, "revelations", and actions of one individual
. There are few contradictions and, as noted above, all such cases are easily resolved by abrogation. (For that matter, there are many versions of the Bible, but only one recognized version of the Koran.) The doctrine set forth is thus quite coherent. Anyone who grasps that doctrine can see that people like the Taliban and al-Qâ'idah are acting in accordance with it, while "moderate" Islam is not.Islam today is at a historical stage equivalent to the barbaric Christianity of the Dark Ages; given time, it will evolve into a harmless form as Christianity has
. Again, the Bible allows almost any set of ideas to be justified as "Christian", depending on the norms of a given time and place. The Koran does not allow any- thing like as much flexibility. Some Muslims may be ignorant of details of Islamic doctrine, while others may renounce the religion and cease to be Muslims at all, but Islam cannot become other than what it is.Opposing Islam itself is racist
. Islam is a totalitarian ideology which aspires to rule all people; it is not a race or an ethnic group. Opposing Islam is no more racist than opposing Communism is. Just as some of the most vigorous anti-Communists were Russians or Chinese who had seen the evils of Communism and revolted against it, so many of the most courageous opponents of Islam today are atheists who were raised Muslim but left Islam -- people like Ibn Warraq
, Wafa Sultan
, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali
. Obviously these individuals are not racist against their own ethnic groups -- on the contrary, they are fighting against an ideology which holds those peoples in thrall.
No doubt there are some
people whose minds are so firmly made up that they can read the Koran and still continue to believe that Islam itself is not inherently dangerous (just as there are people who can go through a whole degree program in biology and still cling to creationism). Such people are unreachable; but there are, I think, not too many of them. Most Western people acknowledge having only a limited knowledge of Islam. They go by what they have heard here and there, by analogies with Christianity which seem superficially reasonable, by a desire to avoid appearing "racist". They don't get it, but they can
get it. They just need to see the truth for themselves.
So tell them to read the Koran.
*Note on spelling: There is a standard system, widely used in academia but little-known elsewhere, for transliterating Arabic words from the very different Arabic alphabet into our own. In that system, the holy book's name is spelled "Qur'ân", with the Q representing a consonant not found in any Western language, the apostrophe representing a glottal stop, and the bar over the A showing that it is elongated (the distinction between long and short vowels is very important in Arabic). Having studied Islam at a university for several years, I am familiar with the system, and I use it for Arabic words which are not common in English and thus have not acquired a standard English spelling. For words which do have such a standard spelling, such as "Koran" and "Mecca", I use that rather than the transliteration ("Qur'ân", "Makkah", etc.) which would be less familiar to most readers.