A READER asked this question: "If the Koran was arranged out of chronological order and Mohammed started out a nice guy and then turned into a "Psycho-Killer," why don't some of his earlier, more peaceful teachings contradict his later, more violent teachings and consequently prevail?"
It's a good question. As you probably know, Mohammad's chapters (called "Suras") are not in chronological order in most versions of the Koran. It is traditional to have them arranged in the order of the Suras' length. But when two passages conflict, the mullahs decide which passage overwrites which by looking back to the chronological order rather than the traditional order.
They know with certainty what order the chapters were written in. But the chapters are arranged from the longest to the shortest chapter (except for the first chapter), and that has become the traditional way to arrange them.
Unfortunately, the most intolerant, violent passages in the Koran are chronologically later. So they abrogate (supersede or overwrite) the earlier, more tolerant passages.
So then the question is, "Then why are there any peaceful Muslims?"
Peaceful Muslims come about for three reasons:
1. Muslims are, of course, human beings and most people do not want to be violent. Mohammad anticipated this and told Muslims they had to be intolerant and even violent whether they liked it or not (and as a test of their faith), but people do their best to ignore these very direct Islamic teachings. And they tend to ignore the teachings rather than speak out against them because it can be dangerous to contradict or criticize the Koran. More devout believers can become quite violent and intolerant when a fellow Muslim criticizes any Islamic teaching.
2. If the Muslim is living in a non-Muslim majority country and violence (or even intolerance) would impede the ultimate victory of Islam, then peaceful behavior is called for, at least for the moment. Mohammad anticipated this too (the possibility of a Muslim living in a Muslim-minority country) and provided ideas for many other ways to work toward eventually gaining control of the laws of the country (Islam's prime directive) — by having lots of children, trying to convert others, giving money to Muslim organizations, etc. I'm sure many Muslims are quite happy to avoid living a life of political agitation, and this way they get to satisfy their Islamic obligations while enjoying a peaceful life in a free country.
3. And of course, a Muslim can always pretend to be peaceful while actively working toward violent goals. Apparently nice people have occasionally been known to be intolerant and even violent.