How do you respond to conventional wisdom that says the Qur'an espousesI cannot help but wonder what we can do politically to undermine terrorism. I know what we can do from a religious perspective (see posts here and here). I hear of the current religious climate in Iran, and hope and pray God gives our current and future political leaders wisdom and a winsome spirit.
First, [violent] verses have a historical context and must be understood and interpreted in a specific way. Second, if the Qur'an espouses violence, then we should have a greater percentage of Muslims involved in violence. Violence is usually politically, not religiously, motivated. Third, terrorist sympathizers or the "cheering section"—the 7 percent who are politically radicalized—are no more religious than mainstream Muslims who abhor violence and say it is morally unjustified. Muslims are as likely as Americans to denounce attacks on civilians. Finally, people defending their position on 9/11—the 7 percent who think it's completely justified—do so because of political and geopolitical perceptions, not theology. Not one referred to the Qur'an. Their responses could have come from an atheist. They see the U.S. as an imperialist power trying to control the world. Those who condemned 9/11 quoted Qur'anic verses that forbid killing innocent people. So moral objection to terrorism is competing with political rage, and people can go either way.
How should evangelicals respond to what seems to be the spread of extremist
Evangelicals should respond the way everyone should respond. Understanding the cause of the problem is important. The data clearly show it is driven not by religious extremism but by extreme political ideology. Second, as a human family, look at the extremists as an outside group, rather than as an outgrowth of religion. This builds bridges between people of different faiths all fighting a common enemy. Let's not forget that Muslims are the primary victims of violent extremism. People in majority-Muslim countries, unlike Americans, say their greatest fear is terrorism. Third, evangelicals should help empower those trying to make positive change peacefully. At the end of the day, this battle is not for the soul of Islam. It's the road to reform.
The grievances terrorists champion are strategically chosen and ones the vast majority agree with. Others try to address these same issues peacefully. To the extent these people are effective, terrorists are seen as ineffective and their methods as barbaric. Finally, evangelicals should vocally and unequivocally denounce anti-Muslim hate speech. When prominent Christian leaders make degrading statements about Islam, it feeds [Osama] bin Laden's claim of an American "crusade" against Islam and Muslims. Hateful statements against what Muslims hold most dear are a gift to bin Laden and a slap to mainstream Muslims who fear and reject his methods and therefore should be seen as allies, not enemies, in the fight against violent extremism.
The approach Mogahed recommends does seem to be more conducive to missions to the Muslim world. And if we are to make lasting change in the religious / political systems that produce terrorists at home or abroad, the only thing that will work is the life change that individuals experience after they come to Christ. Military might, although sometimes a valid approach to terrorism, is not the primary solution.
Thanks to Gallup for informative research.