The America’s Truth Forum symposium in Las Vegas ended with a bang on Saturday afternoon, when a Q-and-A featuring most of the participants (some, alas, had earlier flights to catch) devolved into an exchange between Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir and me about Islam and the Qur’an.
This was because Hamid Mir asserted in his address that the Qur’an did not sanction lying, and that it held a non-Muslim’s life to be equal in worth to that of a Muslim’s, and that Islamic tolerance was exemplified by the fact that Jewish and Christian women could marry Muslim men without having to convert to Islam.
I responded during the Q and A to point out that Qur’an 3:28 and 16:106 not only sanction deception of unbelievers, but are taken to do so by mainstream Qur’anic commentators such as Ibn Kathir and others, and that mainstream Islamic law does not hold a non-Muslim’s life as equal in value to that of a Muslim, and that the fact that a Jewish or Christian man may not marry a Muslim woman without converting to Islam was a manifestation of the Islamic supremacism that was fueling today’s jihad activity.
Mir replied by saying he really didn’t know much about Islam, and asked, “Why are you pushing me to adopt a more radical form of Islam?” This is, of course, a charge that Dean Esmay and others have made: that by speaking of the way jihadists use the Qur’an and Islamic theology, I am only encouraging them. But whether coming from Mir or Esmay or anyone else, this charge is false, and hides an unwillingness by self-proclaimed moderate Muslims to do what they must do: confront and combat the jihad ideology. Mir, after all, made several assertions about the Qur’an and Islam. If he wasn’t prepared to back them up, he shouldn’t have made them — although perhaps he wasn’t expecting to be challenged on factual grounds.
And this is the problem. Islamic spokesmen in the West make statements like Mir’s to non-Muslims every day, and those non-Muslims are eager to hear them and be reassured about Islam. But I continue to maintain that such reassurance is worthless if these moderates are not able or willing to do battle with the jihadists on theological grounds. If the moderate version of Islam is not convincing to Muslims, it is worthless. And if I can see the holes in it from an Islamic standpoint, so can Muslims. Thus I stand by my statements at the symposium on Saturday afternoon: the jihadists are making recruits among Muslims daily by appealing to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Peaceful Muslims should not ignore or deny this, but should acknowledge the aspects of Islam that are giving rise to violence, and repudiate and fight against them. Otherwise this recruitment will continue unabated.
It is consequently unfortunate that many in the crowd were vociferously supporting Mir throughout this exchange. Evidently even in a crowd of hardcore anti-jihadists there are some who would prefer to believe comforting falsehoods rather than face unpleasant realities.
But then there is Q. I spent a very pleasant Friday afternoon in Las Vegas with my friends Patrick Boylan and Q. Patrick Boylan, you may recall, is a fearless teacher who has made waves at UNLV and elsewhere by speaking the truth. Q is a military man who just returned from Afghanistan, and has also spent considerable time in Iraq. Q is unflappable and unfoolable, and he knows from extensive personal experience what is in the hearts and minds of all too many citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan. Had he heard Hamid Mir’s soothing words, he would not have been misled for a single moment: he has seen too much, and knows too much.
Thus I left Las Vegas with a sense of hope, for every day brings more evidence, for people like Q who are willing and able to see it, of what we are really dealing with. May there be many more Q’s.