So says Glenn Beck in his bestselling new book, An Inconvenient Book.
And wouldn’t it be nice if it were so? But — inconvenient as it may be — saying “I have read the Koran and can tell you that I unequivocally believe that Islam is a religion of peace” is like saying, “I have read the Qur’an but I read it with my eyes closed.”
The Qur’an counsels warfare — hot warfare, with casualties and prisoners — against unbelievers in numerous passages, including 9:5, 9:29, 2:190-193, 8:60, 2:216-217, 8:65-67, 9:111, 60:8-9, and 47:4, and that’s just off the top of my head. There are many other such passages as well. I am not talking for the moment about whether such fighting is defensive or offensive, or prescribed for all time or only for the believers of Muhammad’s day, or justified or not for whatever reason. I am merely pointing out that the Qur’an — regardless of (as the common objections will surely come) what the Bible or any other sacred text says or does not say — at face value mandates warfare against unbelievers in numerous passages. Anyone who reads it attentively will see this.
Now, that fact alone does not establish that Islam is not a religion of peace. Some contend, or Glenn Beck may assume, that the traditions and laws of Islam mitigate the literal meaning of these texts. (Whether or not this is actually true is irrelevant to the present discussion, which is just about the Qur’an itself.) They may think that they are universally interpreted in a spiritualized manner, or that they are not regarded literally, or that modern Muslims do not see them as binding. But Glenn Beck did not, unfortunately, say or suggest any of those things. Rather, he said, “I have read the Koran and can tell you that I unequivocally believe that Islam is a religion of peace,” which is a statement about the Qur’an. It suggests that its contents are other than what they are.
Now, Beck continues by saying: “The overwhelming majority (I believe at least 90 percent) of all Muslims are good, peace-loving people.” That may be so, but it does not follow from the contents of the Qur’an in any case. Religious traditions are large things, and while the contents of the Qur’an are what they are, that does not mean — and I have never argued, although the careless, foolish and malevolent frequently assume that I do — that every Muslim knows all of those contents, takes them to heart, and acts upon them, or ever will.
Beck’s statement is a typical one, showing one of the ways in which this issue gets clouded. People see that there are peaceful Muslims and assume on the basis of their existence, and because of presuppositions they have about the nature of religious texts in general, that the jihadists must be twisting the peaceful message at the religion’s core. Or they think that the only way we can support genuine Muslim moderates is by retailing polite fictions such as this one. This completely ignores, of course, the fact that jihadists around the world are making recruits today by appealing to peaceful Muslims as the exponents of “pure” and “true” Islam, and quoting the Qur’an and Sunnah copiously to buttress this claim.
Until the Glenn Becks of the world, and Muslims and non-Muslims of good will, understand that and begin to confront it rather than pretending it is not happening, that recruitment will continue.