Islam: Inherently Violent or Peaceful?
Image: Murat Bay / XianPix / Corbis / AP

Given the growth of terrorist groups such as ISIS, what is the true nature of Islam—violent or peaceful? President Obama says that the terrorist group, the Islamic State, ISIS, or ISIL, is “not Islamic.” But others insist that the entire religion founded by Muhammad is inherently violent. Where does the truth lie? Stan Guthrie, a CT editor at large and author of the new book God’s Story in 66 Verses, interviewed Warren Larson—professor emeritus at Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University and author of Islamic Ideology and Fundamentalism in Pakistan: Climate for Conversion to Christianity?—to shed new light on this question.

How do we handle questions about the “true” nature of Islam and whether someone is a real Muslim?

There are no easy answers because of the complexity of Islam and divisions among Muslims as to what is true Islam and what is not. We need to find a balance between two extremes: (1) not to insist on the defiance of Charlie Hebdo and (2) not to simplistically say, “This is not Islam.”

A balanced position lies somewhere in between, but ultimately it is up to Muslims to decide who is a real Muslim. My sense is that many Muslims are going through some serious soul-searching at the moment.

What do you make of President Obama’s insistence that the Islamic State is “not Islamic”?

I wouldn’t be so hard on President Obama, because he’s basically doing what President Bush did, saying something about Islam that might help calm the waters.

There is nothing extremists want more than to make it look like the West is at war with Islam. Neither Bush nor Obama is an expert on Islam, but they are trying to keep ...

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Islam: Inherently Violent or Peaceful?
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