My friend looked baffled as to why bin Laden — or any human being — would say such a strange and horrible thing. And this just confirmed for him that bin Laden was an animal, a cruel murderer who would have been a murderer no matter what religion he was.
But then I said something that I could tell really caught him. I said, "Well, it's a sentiment Muhammad expressed. He said unbelievers love the life of this world better than the hereafter, and because of that, they are rejected by Allah. A lot of Muslim leaders have said the same thing in pretty much the same words as bin Laden — Nidal M. Hasan, the Ayatola Khomeni, hell, it's even the Hamas motto!"
My friend looked like I just jolted him with a Taser for a second. He knows I've read the Koran twice, so he took what I said as a shocking fact.
I don't like to make people squirm, and I wanted to give that indigestible tidbit a little time to integrate into his worldview, so I went on about my business as if nothing happened. It was just a casual remark, a simple matter of fact, and my demeanor revealed no more than that. But I have the feeling he stayed up late that night thinking about it. I think he might come around.
I feel sometimes like a therapist helping someone gradually come to terms with a painful memory that they subconsciously fear to remember.
Years ago I read an account by Milton Erickson — a psychiatrist and innovator of hypnotic techniques — doing an experiment in a college class he was teaching. One of Erickson's students couldn't stand the sight of blood and this was a problem because he was studying to be a doctor!
Erickson hypnotized the young man and uncovered a memory the student had completely blocked from his conscious mind. But rather than overwhelm his conscious mind, Erickson gave post-hypnotic suggestions to allow the memory to be revealed to his conscious mind slowly, bit by bit, over the course of many weeks.
I sometimes operate the same way with information about Islam. For some people, to discover that the core doctrines of Islam — a religion in which 1.2 billion people claim membership — teaches intolerance, totalitarianism, and violence, is not only overwhelming and frightening, it is profoundly disruptive to their worldview.
So if I am going to have regular and continued contact with a particular person, I reveal the information gradually.
Just a little at a time does the trick. Let them come to it on their own terms. As Dale Carnegie says in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People — a book every counterjihadist should study — when trying to change someone's mind, it's best to let them think it was their idea, and the gradual approach is one way to do that.
Find out why it is so important to help people understand Islamic doctrine: Just One Thing.