(Click to read prior conversation)
I returned from the restroom and noticed our two friends were not there. I asked, "What'd y'all do, run off our friends?" Steve said, "I think they thought we were plotting something."
"Naah, we're only making observations," I said, "and telling the truth. Besides we all love one another anyway." Taking my seat I turned to my new friend, "Ok, Khalil. You were saying the president has cozied up with the Muslim Brotherhood?"
"Yes, it's a fact. In a speech he gave in Cairo a few years ago he insisted the Muslim Brotherhood be present. And a year later he invited the Council on American-Islamic Relations organization, CAIR, and the Islamic Society of North America to take the lead part in training American soldiers how to interact, or not interact, with Muslims in the Middle East."
"You've got to be kidding," Steve said.
I said, "But isn't that something that might be helpful to an American soldier and our overall strategy in winning over the local people, insofar as knowing how to respect their customs and such?"
"But that's not what CAIR and ISNA did. At least not exclusively. They essentially made recommendations on how our troops should combat terror. And on top of that they also schemed and maneuvered politically to have any military administrators who were anti-Islamic removed from the training process regardless of their years in service or their talents."
Steve asked, "You mean to say the President led the way in allowing Muslims to train our soldiers, more or less, in matters of engagement?"
I told Khalil he was beginning to sound more like an American Evangelist than he was a Muslim. And added, teasingly, "You must be hanging around Steve a lot." He smiled and said, "Well, as you know ours is a religion of peace."
"Yes," I said, "President George Bush told us about this religion of peace shortly after 911. But we all know that not all Muslims believe this to be true. At least not the ones waging jihad. Like ISIS and the Muslims in our own country who are killing innocent unarmed citizens. For what? For not being Muslim? Which brings me to my questions about jihad. Am I not correct in understanding that some Muslims understand jihad to mean one thing and that for others it means something else?"
Gently placing the empty Styrofoam cup on the table Khalil said, "This is true, unfortunately. As for me, jihad is something personal. Between me and God. I was taught by well-respected and knowledgeable imams that God's instructions through the Prophet was that jihad means something like an "effort," or "striving hard" on the way of God. There are chapters in the Koran, we call them surahs, which specifically describe jihad as this."
"Hmmm," I said, "Now you're talking Kahlil like the peace-loving Muslim we all expect."
"Like Muhammad Ali," Steve said. "He was a Muslim."
"Yeah, but so was Malcolm X and so is Louis Farrakhan," I said, looking at Khalil. "So the reason we have most Muslims practicing their religion peacefully and others who take this violent, aggressive approach to converting all unbelievers is because of the way they interpret certain chapters in the Koran. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes, this seems to be the case. There are some imams and scholars, but not the ones who taught and led our worship services back home, who believe that those chapters of the Koran, the later ones written after the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Medina, that these chapters mean literally an armed struggle of faith against unbelievers in converting them to Islam. This is their interpretation of it. And that those who die in this struggle are promised immediate entry into everlasting paradise."
Steve. "Khalil, you say 'their interpretation of it'. Who's to say whose interpretation is the correct one? If all Muslims subscribed to your interpretation, there wouldn't be an ISIS or their remote followers intent on either eliminating or converting unbelievers by force or war."
I crossed my legs. "Khalil, to whom or to what can a Muslim appeal to know that he or she has the "correct" understanding of what not only jihad means but what anything else means in the Koran?"
"Well, those Muslims who believe that war is necessary in order to convert those to Islam are just simply wrong and do not hold the correct understanding of jihad. Jihad, in the Koran, refers to a personal struggle, an effort by the believer, to follow in the ways of God. And that's all there is to it."
"But like Steve alluded to, there really is nothing, no person or thing, no authority of sorts, to which a Muslim can appeal for the correct interpretation. Is there?" I said, "The real reason this difference in interpretation of the Koran exists is because there exists no authority to which any Muslim can appeal. Am I correct?"
"Yes, Charles, unfortunately you are. Different imams and Muslim scholars differ in their understanding of some of the Prophet's teaching and what he truly meant. Especially when it comes to jihad. And it will probably take many years of the efforts of Muslim reformers to theologically reform this minority understanding of jihad."
"So in the meantime, peaceful Muslims are okay with us killing the violent Muslims who are trying to kill us?" Steve asked.
"Well, anyone of course has the right to defend themselves -- be they Christian, Muslim, or Jew. But with respect to this difference in Muslims' understanding of jihad, it's not any different than the many different interpretations of the Bible that Protestants hold. Your Baptist denomination, Steve, if I understand it correctly, is only one of over 25,000 Protestant denominations, each with their own private interpretation of the Bible. If every Evangelical truly understood the Bible verses to mean the same thing, then there would not have arisen the many separate denominations that exist today. Am I correct in this?"
"Perhaps," Steve said, "but whatever differences we might have, there are no Protestant Christian denominations that interpret the Scriptures to mean we must engage in violent force, or the threat of death, to convert every unbeliever to our faith."
"But in the same way there are Muslims who have a different interpretation of jihad in the Koran, do not Evangelical Christians have different interpretations of what the truth is in their Bible?"
I said, "But, in fact, Khalil, Jesus taught exactly the opposite of what was taught by the Prophet in his teaching of necessary violence and war. Because of Jesus' specific message, his conduct, and his fate, his disciples were committed to non-violence. Whereas the followers of the Prophet Muhammad have been since the earliest days, if my history is correct, committed, if necessary to militant conflict and do not shrink from the use of violence. Unlike Christ's teachings, war for Muslims has always been a policy affirmed and waged -- and in most cases -- won. No one who's read the history of Islam can dispute there's always been a militant character in this faith -- with all due respect."
Khalil sighed and smiled. "Okay, I can see you are both very interesting. This is good. Now, I need to go to the restroom. Be right back. Steve, will we have time to go to Walmart on the way back?"
"I think so," Steve said. As Khalil walked away, I said to Steve, "Have you ever discussed the faith with him at any time?"
"Yes, I approached him about some things but not in depth. He's very knowledgeable about his Muslim faith and also knows a little about how to counter basic Christian beliefs."
"Well," I said, "maybe we can work together and help him come around to seeing the Light."