IT'S CRAZY. Most Muslims pretend there is nothing about Islam that might inspire terrorism. I get letters from apparently sincere Muslims all the time who try to convince me that violent Jihadis have got it all wrong because Islam really is a religion of peace.
This is understandable for people like my friend from Bosnia who has never read the Qur'an and only knows what his parents told him about his religion. But many of the people who write to me have obviously read the Qur'an and the Hadith, and some of them even know about the principle of abrogation (I've been asking them lately), and still they want me to stop saying unflattering things about Islam.
How is this possible? And why are there so many of them? Why don't they do the sensible thing and renounce Islam? Why aren't there more apostates? It doesn't make any sense. But I came across an experiment that shed a little light on the situation. I read about it in the excellent book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which I recommend to you since the most important thing we can do is influence other non-Muslims to stop giving concessions to Islam's relentless encroachment. We need to master the principles of influence.
Anyway, two researchers did the experiment back in 1959 to test the hypothesis that "persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain the something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort."
In their experiment, they set it up so that if a college woman wanted to join a "sex discussion group," they would have to endure an extremely embarrassing initiation ceremony.
The group was really staged — all the other group members were actors who the researchers had coached to make the discussions as "worthless and uninteresting" as they could be.
Another group of women went through a less embarrassing initiation ceremony, and a third group had no initiation ceremony to endure.
The results were pretty straightforward. The women who had to endure the most embarrassment found the most value in the discussion group.
In another experiment, it was set up pretty much the same way except instead of embarrassment, the women had to endure a painful electric shock to join the group. The more shock they had to withstand, the more valuable they found the group.
In the book, Cialdini points out that this at least partially explains the tradition of "hazing." He writes:
"As long as it is the case that people like and believe in what they have struggled to get, these groups will continue to arrange effortful and troublesome initiation rites. The loyalty and dedication of those who emerge will increase to a great degree the chances of group cohesiveness and survival. Indeed, one study of fifty-four tribal cultures found that those with the most dramatic and stringent initiation ceremonies were those with the greatest group solidarity."Islam does not have initiation ceremonies, except perhaps the circumcision. But they do have a stringent and troublesome ongoing practice. Fasting for a month every year, traveling to Mecca, paying their zakat (charity contributions), and praying five times a day. Oh yes, and they are supposed to strive for the cause of Allah until the whole world submits to Islamic rule. These are all non-negotiable obligations a Muslim must fulfill.
I think simply praying five times a day the way they pray is stringent and troublesome enough all by itself. I'd much rather endure a very painful electric shock.
So one reason Muslims may try to whitewash their religion is that they have been strongly influenced by all the stringent and troublesome efforts they've already endured.
There is also the principle of commitment and consistency working against their potential for renouncing the faith or at least criticizing it. Once a person has done something, especially in public, that demonstrates a belief in something, he will find it difficult to reverse his position.
And of course, if you add to that the actual danger of leaving Islam, the situation is very much like a person who really has no way out, and must make the best of his imprisonment.
So when you come across a Muslim who tries to whitewash his religion, who tries to explain away the intolerance and violence at the core of Islam, show them some compassion. It may not be taqiyya. But also, don't waste your time trying to argue with them or convince them to give up their religion or admit it has faults.
And don't let their efforts to whitewash Islam dissuade you from educating your fellow non-Muslims. We will find safety only if enough non-Muslims know about Islam. We cannot rely on Muslims giving up their faith or reforming their religion.