Let me back up a little. I had good rapport with this guy. We get along well and enjoy each other's company. And I was just goofing around, really. It's not socially appropriate to listen to something like that under those circumstances. So I played it for about 15 seconds and turned it off. But while it was playing, it said something about jizya. I asked him, "Do you know what jizya is? Ever heard if that?"
He said no, of course. I mean, how many people do you know who have any idea what that is?
"It's protection money," I said. "The Middle East used to be almost entirely Christians and Jews. Now it's almost entirely Muslim. Ever wonder how that happened? I mean, some of those countries are 99% Muslim! What happened to all the Jews and Christians? It's partly because of this clever little element in Islamic ideology called 'jizya.' It's written into Islamic law that when Muslims conquer a new area, they're supposed to offer the Christians and Jews the option to continue living as Christians and Jews if they paid a kind of tax, called the 'jizya.' Muslims didn't have to pay this tax. It was referred to by the Muslims as 'protection money.' As long as they paid the jizya, they were allowed to live. If they didn't want to pay the tax, they could either convert to Islam or be killed — whichever they preferred. Many of the Christians and Jews left the country if they could, and many of them paid this heavy jizya tax, but over the centuries, to get out from under the financial burden, many of them converted to Islam."
He seemed interested and surprised by what I was saying, and we didn't have anything else to do while we were driving, so I kept talking: "It's been so illuminating to learn about Islam because all my life, so many things have happened that I couldn't understand. I mean, really, why couldn't Israel and Palestine just work out their issues and get on with their lives? It's been going on since 1948 and shows no sign of changing! Come on, people! What's the holdup? And while I was growing up, I saw hijacked planes and hostages galore in the news. What's the deal? What were they doing? Why were they doing it? I couldn't understand it. I didn't know anything at all about the Islamic ideology."
He said, "It's the same ideology that caused 9/11, isn't it?"
I said yes.
But then he said, "Our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan really made it worse."
"Well, it's been getting worse since the 1973 oil embargo," I said in a relaxed, off-hand way. "Oil used to be cheap, but when Saudi Arabia and some other oil producers got together to dramatically raise the price of oil, suddenly all these Saudi princes found themselves swimming in money, and since many of them are hardcore follow-the-texts-to-the-letter kind of Muslims, what they did with their wealth was build madrassas all over the world — tens of thousands of madrassas — that teach nothing but the Islamic ideology, which includes hating non-Muslims, the subjugation of women, and the Islamic goal of bringing the whole world under Islamic law. They keep cranking out fanatics and unleashing them onto the world. So, of course, when there is any kind of jihad going on, like in Syria and Iraq now, these guys travel to the action and join the fight. According to the Koran, that's what they're supposed to do."
He seemed kind of shaken by the implications of this. So I changed the subject and we talked about other things for the rest of the trip.
We arrived at his place in good spirits. As I was driving home, I thought about our conversation, which didn't feel like an argument at all, but felt like two people just talking about something interesting and relevant, I was thinking that my original question was a great opener for this kind of conversation. "Have you ever heard of jizya? Do you know what that is?" The question leads naturally to information most people don't know and that would help give them an inside view of the ideology of Islam.
People are more curious about Islam than ever, and more open to finding out. Let's help them learn something valid about Islam's ideology. Ask this simple question to get the conversation started.