Making Sense of Peaceful Muslims and Violent Islamic Ideology


Hank Hanegraaff: Good to have you back on the broadcast Raymond.

Raymond Ibrahim: Hi, Hank. Good to be with you again.

Hank: I want to set something up for you and then have you give a perspective that all of us need to have.

During the 33rd anniversary of the overthrow of the Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), I personally experienced a portrait of peace and tolerance vis–à–vis Islam. I waited in line to board a United Emirates flight from Dubai to Tehran. While I was in line I had a conversation with a man and his father. The father happened to be 100 years old. I had a very, very pleasant conversation. Both of them were Iranians. Then on the plane I sat next to a very accomplished Persian woman with two masters degrees and she offered me assistance if I needed it while I was in Tehran. When I deplaned I was kissed by two Muslim men and I heard the word “salaam” [peace]. The following morning I met a translator named Fatima and she was absolutely delightful. She was amused when I told her that I had not ventured out of the hotel, and she told me that I could walk the streets out in the middle of the night with complete confidence. Turns out she was right. When I spoke at the universities of Tehran and Allameh Tabataba’i (the sociology university in Tehran), students and faculty were more than polite and engaging.

All that, Raymond, seems to fit into a narrative that we hear in the West about Islam being a religion of peace. Now, obviously, my experience tells me that there are perhaps millions and millions of very peaceful Muslims but is Islam really a religion of peace and tolerance?

Raymond: Yes. What you bring up is very important. It is useful for us to make a distinction. The short answer, the quick answer, which I will then elaborate, is that, even listening to you, what you basically delineated is what everyone does. They tell me of Muslims and they say that is a reflection of Islam. I think that’s the fallacy. Islam is an objective ideology. Muslims are regular humans like the rest of us who can to varying degrees subscribe or not subscribe this ideology. To elaborate I often use an analogy that I came up with a few years ago. The analogy—which I find very helpful and some others do—is as follows:

Today all of us would condemn and denounce the ideology of Nazism. We call it supremacist. It’s inherently violent towards those deemed inferior, and so forth. There is no controversy about this. Everyone will agree to that. At the same time, we know historically that there were many Germans including officials in the Nazi Party who were actually good people and went to great lengths to help Jews and others, and often to their own danger, putting their own life on the line. For example, popularized by the movie Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler was an actual ranking Nazi member, yet at no little risk to himself, he put his neck on the line, and he helped a lot of Jews and others escape. What do we make of this basic contradiction?

Obviously if you ask someone, “Well, what about Oskar Schindler and these people, these other Germans and so forth, were they moderate Nazis?” I think the answer is “No.” They were Nazis in name and maybe they adhered to certain tenants of Nazism, but when it came to the really nasty stuff, they just said no to it, they didn’t subscribe to it, and they did the opposite of it. That neither means that Nazism is now exonerated, nor that there is a radical Nazism verses a moderate Nazism. It just means that in all ideologies and religions you are going to have people to varying degrees will subscribe to varying tenants of set religion.

I think that is the most useful way to understand those many Muslims that you alluded to and I, in fact, agree with you, there are many people who identify as Muslims, or we think of them as Muslims, and they’re very good people, they don’t subscribe to the sorts of things that we discussed in the last show and so forth (i.e. the September 1, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast), but in no way, shape, or form in my mind does that suggest that there is a valid moderate form of Islam. That simply tells me—just like Oskar Schindler and so forth in that analogy—these people are just not buying into and working in that supremacist aspect of Islam for whatever reason. That is why they are the good people that they are, but Islam is still Islam.

Learn more on Islamic ideology in Raymond Ibrahim’s Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, which is available through CRI.

Raymond Ibrahim, Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, and Al Jazeera and testified before Congress on the plight of persecuted Christians. Ibrahim is the author of The Al Qaeda Reader, and his writing has appeared in a wide variety of media including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Times, Jane’s Ilsamic Affairs Analyst, the Middle East Quarterly, the World Almanac of Islamism, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and United Press International, as well as his own website, RaymondIbrahim.com.

This blog adapted from the September 8, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.