He interrupted me and said, "Yeah, I get that. It's definitely relevant."
"And," I continued, "the resistance people give me intrigues me. I've been an avid reader all my life. Only non-fiction. I don't even like reading fiction. I like learning stuff, and I enjoy sharing what I'm learning."
He nodded. To people who know me, this is probably one of the most obvious things about me.
"And all my life the reaction I've gotten from all the different things I've learned and shared has been almost entirely interest. Fascination even. Very rarely has anyone ever shown any kind of resistance to what I say. But on the subject of Islam, I had people arguing with me — people who didn't know anything at all about Islam. They would say, 'Christians do bad things too' — as if that has anything to do with anything!"
"I mean, I wasn't trying to justify Christianity by saying that about Islam!" He knows that I'm not a Christian, so he found this amusing. "But people say, 'the Crusades were bad too and not all Muslims are terrorists and the majority of Muslims are peace-loving people, and besides, what are you suggesting? That we go to war with 1.6 billion people?!'"
He smiled and said, "I think I said all of those to you!" He and I have had many conversations about Islam, and he has slowly started to wonder if Islam might be a bigger problem than he originally thought.
And I said, "I think there are a lot of reasons people respond this way. Of course it's scary. They don't want it to be true. And there are other things. It seems like picking on a minority. It seems like implying that we shouldn't have freedom of religion. It sort of seems like racism, but that's not right, of course, because Islam isn't a race. I think people just don't know how to deal with the information. And that has really intrigued me."
As it happened, the guy I was talking to is the one who recommended the book "Night" (which I've written about here). So I said, "That's what captured me so much about the book by Elie Wiesel — that old man that came back to the little town and tried to tell people what happened, and not one person believed him! That's so much like what has been happening about Islam. People didn't want to believe Islam's core doctrines are hateful and intolerant. They didn't want to believe that the founder of Islam owned slaves, raped women, tortured, assassinated and beheaded people, because the implications of such a terrible fact are too much. And besides, I know this Muslim and he's really nice — as if someone's niceness can tell you anything about a person's ideology. Ted Bundy was supposedly nice. Hitler was nice. Some lady just came out after all these years — she was his maid — and admitted that she thought Hitler was a really nice man!"
At this point, he seemed well won over, so I let the conversation drift into other topics.
The reason I share these conversations with you is because I think we all ought to be sharing our conversations with each other — especially when a conversation goes particularly well. I think it helps give us ideas about how to have these conversations so that they move the ball forward instead of those conversations that we've all had where we share information about Islam that seems like the ball moved backwards — like the person you're talking to is now even more against your point of view at the end of the conversation than the beginning. We need less of those, and more of the moving-the-ball-forward kind — even if it only moves the person just a little bit toward the ultimate acceptance of the painful and disturbing truth that Islam is at its heart intolerant, violent, misogynistic, and supremacist. Any given conversation doesn't have to bring someone all the way to that horrifying realization. But moving in that direction is good enough.
If you have a conversation like this, I want to hear it. You can post it on our web site: Talk About Islam Among Non-Muslims (and I read all the comments on that site) or you can email it directly to me here: Email CW. Let's help each other with these conversations.