DOES THE KORAN COMMAND its believers to make war on unbelievers? I wanted to check this out for myself because I'm skeptical that all this vilifying of Islam could be Christian or Jewish or Hindu propaganda. So I found web sites with English translations of the Koran. This is one. And here's another.
This is a chapter. I chose the chapter at random. Now keep in mind this is an Islamic-promotion web site rather than an anti-Islamic web site. Here are some of the passages from that chapter:
57. So if you gain the mastery over them in war, punish them severely in order to disperse those who are behind them, so that they may learn a lesson.
59. And let not those who disbelieve think that they can escape from the punishment. Verily, they will never be able to save themselves from Allâh's Punishment.
60. And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allâh and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allâh does know.
65. O Prophet (Muhammad)! Urge the believers to fight. If there are twenty steadfast persons amongst you, they will overcome two hundred, and if there be a hundred steadfast persons they will overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are people who do not understand.
67. It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he had made a great slaughter among his enemies in the land. You desire the good of this world (i.e. the money of ransom for freeing the captives), but Allâh desires for you the Hereafter. And Allâh is All-Mighty, All-Wise.
On the other side, I did see a hopeful passage in that chapter:
61. But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and put your trust in Allâh. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.
But the downside is that this quote is within the context of having defeated an enemy and gained the country. And the peace has lots of stipulations, including a choice of conversion to Islam or death, or for Christians and Jews, a heavy tax and fewer rights.
I'm not a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew or a Hindu. I don't think any religion is "right." And as Christian friends of mine are quick to point out, the Bible has quite a few nasty verses, and they have been used to commit atrocities.
But somewhere along the way the majority of Christians have openly admitted the Bible is not perfect, and I think that makes extremism is less likely.
In defense of Muslims in the Middle East, it is risky to say something as mild as "I think maybe the Koran may not be perfect." Seriously, in some of those countries, you may end up dead making a comment like that.
Read an excellent account of one man's experience in Egypt a few years ago. He has since converted to Christianity, so he's got quite a bit of born-again enthusiasm, but he is an expert on Islam, having studied at the most well-respected university in the Islamic world (where he specialized in Islamic history) and he was born and raised in Egypt, so he knows a lot about Islam. His insight is fascinating. His book is called Islam and Terrorism.
Update: I have found a very readable version of the Koran. I reviewed it here: A Simple Koran. It is made to be easily understood by the English-speaking reader.
Another update: Read a scientific analysis of the ideas that make up the Islamic religion: The Unsettling Brilliance of Islam.