Quite often I’ll read statements in various places that say the Qur’an is violent, Islam is violent, and so on. I understand that it is easy to say things like this. There are plenty of violent statements in the Qur’an. Historically Islam has had violent periods, just as Christianity has. Islam has never had a good image with Christians, nor can Muslims be very impressed with Christians.
But I love Islam. I’m not an expert on the religion. I don’t know Arabic well enough to read the Qur’an in Arabic. I am not Muslim myself. But I have taken the time to learn as much about Islam as I can.
More importantly, I have spent a lot of time with Muslims, talking to them about religion and politics. We’ve talked in English, Arabic, and Russian. They have been from Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, China, Pakistan, Iraq, the United States, and more. The only Muslim region that I haven’t had any contact with is Southeast Asia.
Certainly the Muslim world view is different from the Christian world view. It is also vitally important to separate cultural traditions from Islam. That becomes much easier when you talk to Muslims from completely different cultures, but most Americans don’t have that chance. We just see the veils, hear the stories of domestic violence and repression, and think that represents Islam. I can’t believe that it does because I've seen loving couples, women who choose to wear the veil, or not wear the veil, and talked to feminist Muslims (sounds about as unlikely as feminist Mormons).
In the end, what I know about Islam comes from my experiences with Muslims. And my impression over the last 10 years is that Muslims are not violent. I have never feared when I have spent time with Muslims, despite all the quotes from the Qur’an that say it’s fine to kill a non-Muslim. All I know is that almost all of the Muslims I know are good, kind, and peaceful. They are mothers and fathers. They try to take care of their families. They are culturally and religiously very different from me, and I can easily make allowances for that, just as they make allowances for my cultural oddities from their perspective.
There are some very violent Muslims, those who are violent in the name of their religion. I have talked to a few. There are also Jews who are violent in the name of their religion (I’ve talked to some personally of them too). There are violent Hindus and Christians. In my opinion, it is the interpretation that is violent, not the religion itself. If Islam truly promoted violence, wouldn't the world have descended into chaos long before this?
I cannot condemn a religion based on the actions of a few of its adherents or on my misperceptions, especially since I am a Mormon. My church has spent its entire existence defending itself against similar accusations (although violence hasn't played quite as large a role in those accusations) and I will not do the same to Islam because I have not seen the proof that it is a dangerous religion.
(I’m going to be out of town for the next few days and I might not be able to respond very quickly to any comments.)