Q: As a child, you grew up in a Muslim home with several family members having served in the U.S. Military. What values did that ingrain in you?
A: Our allegiance was to God and country; we were Muslim, first and foremost. According to my parents’ teaching, it was Islam that commanded me to love and serve my country. Islam taught me to defend the oppressed, to stand up for the rights of women and children, to shun the desires of the flesh, to seek the pleasure of God, and to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. By my teenage years I enthusiastically proclaimed Islam to all who would listen, and I usually started by informing them of a teaching that was knit into the fiber of my beliefs: Islam is the religion of peace.
Q: How did September 11, 2001 change your thoughts on jihad?
A: On September 11, I was confronted for the first time with the stark reality of jihad. It was not as if I had never heard of jihad before; I certainly had, but I knew it as a defensive effort buried deep in the pages of Islamic history. That is how our imams alluded to jihad, and we never questioned it. As American Muslims we rarely, if ever, thought about jihad. When the twin towers fell, the eyes of the nation turned to American Muslims for an explanation. I sincerely believe September 11 was a greater shock for American Muslims like my family than for the average American. I remember hearing a slogan at my mosque that I shared with many: “The terrorists who hijacked the planes on September 11 also hijacked Islam.”
Q: This led you to studying the history of Islam, in which you discovered a lot of violence in what you were taught was the “religion of peace.” How did you respond to that?
A: After years of investigation, I had to face the reality. There is a great deal of violence in Islam, even in the very foundations of the faith, and it is not all defensive. Quite to the contrary, if the traditions about the prophet of Islam are in any way reliable, then Islam glorifies violent jihad arguably more than any other action a Muslim can take.
Q: What’s the best way to view jihad, as we live in context with Muslim neighbors and friends, and with increasing numbers of Muslim refugees arriving?
A: We must be careful not to slide down the slippery slope of assuming every Muslim is a threat. Of the thousands of Muslims I have known in my personal life, only one has become radicalized to the point of explicitly supporting violence, and none have actually undertaken violent jihad. It is wrong to paint all Muslims with the same brush; we need to see them as individuals, the vast majority of whom just wish to live life, take care of their families, and peacefully honor God. I do not claim to have all the answers, especially answers regarding public policy, but there is certainly a first step in responding well to radical Islam, whether individually or collectively. We must understand it for what it is.
Q: How do you think we should handle the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees wanting to find solace in our country?
A: Muslims are coming to the West, and they are bringing their culture and values with them. My encouragement to those who fear Muslim immigration is that we should engage immigrants with love and friendship, sharing our views and our lives with one another. Part of the reason why Muslims immigrants in the West can become radicalized, as with Sayyid Qutb and more recently Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, is that Westerners do not help them to understand our culture and do not provide them with appealing ways of navigating it. Segregating ourselves from those immigrants with whom we disagree only encourages further disagreements and misunderstandings. Instead of fearing Muslim immigrants, we should embrace them and be the element of love and change we wish to see. I suggest friendship rather than fear as a better way forward.
— Nabeel Qureshi, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward
How to Use This Book
With ISIS, the refugee crisis, and terrorism continually in the news, Answering Jihad provides much-needed insights to the questions we’re all trying to answer: What really is jihad? Who are the true Muslims? Is Islam “a religion of peace?” And perhaps most important: how are we to move forward? Pick up your copy today, or grab several for your Bible study.