He nodded. He seemed to know that halal meant permissible. "Well," I said, "the word 'Boko' means 'books!' I guess books are sinful. Funny thing to stand for, huh?"
He smiled. We've talked a bit about Islam before. He hasn't really been in "my camp" about the issue, but he has listened to me. Over time his understanding of Islam has expanded and his willingness to talk about it has noticeably increased. I said, "I just read that ISIS is now burning books. And killing educated women."
"It's crazy," he said, referring to the whole world, I think.
"There's a real conflict, almost a civil war, going on within Islam," I said. "Some Muslims want to reform Islam, to modernize it, to modify it, but others think they should just follow the book to the letter. And they're fighting it out."
Notice what I did there. First of all, by describing the situation this way, I was not "against Muslims." This is important to him. He is definitely a fan of multiculturalism. He really cares about fairness. So by portraying it as Muslims against Muslims, I'm not "vilifying an entire religion" but I still have a chance to make an important point. And I almost always try to work the fact into my conversations that this is not a conflict between two "conflicting interpretations" of Islamic doctrine. Rather, this is a conflict between those who actually want to follow the doctrine as it is written, and those who (like the President of Egypt said in a recent comment) want to update the doctrine, want to establish some modified form, some standardized way of ignoring some of the teachings in the core texts.
That is a crucial distinction, and I think it is very important for as many people as possible to understand that simple fact.
I posted this recently on Facebook:
This was quoted from a recent Bill Maher show (see it here), and I really loved Salman Rushdie's blunt and emphatic response. He's absolutely right. That is exactly what we should do: Give no more concessions to Islam. Period. But someone made this comment on the Facebook post: "Show me a Muslim who has taken up arms in this 'war against extremists.'"
I answered: "Many of the Muslims killed in Iraq and Syria are being killed because they are insufficiently Muslim according to the committed orthodox Muslims (ISIS). Some of the 'insufficiently Islamic' Muslims do, in fact, try to defend themselves. So it can be legitimately called a war. However, that's between them. What WE can do is educate our fellow non-Muslims so they are no longer fooled."
And I think one of the most important facts non-Muslims need to know is that this is not a conflict of interpretations. It is a conflict between following the actual text to the letter, or not following it to the letter. This simple fact makes Muslims and Islamic apologists less capable of deceiving us with their disinformation.
After my answer, someone else added a good one: "The Kurds maybe?" Yes. The Kurds are Muslims fighting ISIS. They are less-orthodox Muslims fighting more-orthodox Muslims. A perfect example.
Muslims are commanded in the Koran to not only kill non-Muslims but also "hypocrites," which means Muslims are exhorted to kill people who profess to be Muslims but do not follow the teachings. And orthodox Muslims are doing exactly that. Sometimes during a massacre of non-Muslims, the jihadis have been known to "test" the Muslims they come across to see how knowledgeable they are about Islam. If they fail the test, it means they are hypocrites, so they are also killed.
I ended the conversation with the man at work by saying, "These are interesting times we live in."
His reply was, "Scary times."
That's the first time I ever got that kind of response from him, and it was the first time I thought the reality of our situation has finally gotten through to him. My approach with him in the future will be different than it has been up to now. I remember when it first sunk in for me, that was my first response too: Fear. That's true for a lot of people.
But it should progress beyond that into a determination to do something about it. So I'll think about it and I'll make sure he and I have a different kind of conversation next time.