One of the most difficult things for Westerners to hear from their Muslim neighbors or advocates of Islam is the notion that Islam is a religion of peace. And, of course, the reason why that is difficult for non-Muslims to believe is that we see the news, and we see the reports of groups like ISIS, and we see the beheading of Western journalists — and not only Western journalists, but we see a great deal of violence being done to other Arab peoples. We see Christians forced out of their homes under violent persecution, even the threat of death. We recall the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and any number of other egregious, violent acts, which are anything but peaceful.
And the folks who carry out those attacks don’t seem to blush at all at the claim to be Muslim. They will make their case for why, in fact, they are Muslims and truer Muslims than moderate Muslims. So it is right for Westerners to be left questioning: Is Islam a religion of peace?
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The thing to keep in mind when you are thinking about Islam, despite its appearance on the news, is that it is not one thing. And Muslims are not one people, really. There is great diversity in Islam. Most of your Muslim neighbors or friends — the overwhelming majority of your Muslim neighbors and friends in places like the United States — are in the United States for the same reason that many other immigrants or families are in the United States. They have the same desires, the same ambitions. They want their kids to be healthy and well. They want their children to have access to good schools. They want economic opportunity. They want nice neighborhoods. They are very much alike, in that regard, to other immigrant populations here.
Your mainstream, or moderate, or everyday Muslim is not a jihadist. He or she is not a terrorist. For those folks Islam is, indeed, a religion of peace. Many of them will often understand the texts on jihad and por-tions of the Hadif in very different ways than what we have come to call radical Islam.
The problem, of course, is the radical Muslim is making his or her case from those religious texts. In that sense, we cannot claim Islam to be a religion of peace. We cannot argue or accept the argument that a guy wielding a sword, beheading a non-combatant in a situation which is not war is just, that it is peaceful, that it is good. It is not.
To the extent that Muslims can make their argument for such things from the Koran, and from the Hadith, and from their own history, then we have to reject the notion that Islam, on those terms, is a religion of peace.
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