I told him to think about it this way: Jehovah's Witnesses go door to door to promote their religion. I know not all of them do this, but they are supposed to. It's part of their religious practice.
He said, "Yeah, I know."
"Well," I said, "jihad is part of Islam. Not all of them do it, but they are all supposed to. It's part of their religious practice."
He just looked at me with a face that said, "I can't listen to you say such things!"
"I don't like it when Jehovah's Witnesses come to my door," I said, "but I don't hate people who are Jehovah's Witnesses. In high school, one of my good friends was a Jehovah's Witness. So you can dislike a religious practice or dislike an ideology, and not have any hatred of any particular person who is a member of that religion or ideology."
"I know you're not a hateful person," he admitted, while still holding a facial expression that said, "I still don't like any of this."
"Schindler was a Nazi," I said.
He blurted out, "I know, I know, but I guess I'm just afraid of inflammatory rhetoric, not from you, but from other people who are on the same track, talking about the same topic."
Finally, we were getting somewhere. "But don't you see," I said, following my own advice, "that's exactly why we need to be talking about this now — before a Muslim sets off a nuclear bomb in the middle of New York City. Can you imagine the inflammatory rhetoric you'd get then? When most people are still ignorant of the real situation? People need to talk about this now, while everyone is relatively calm."
Then I had a thought. I said, "I've been learning about this topic for a long time, and I have rarely come across inflammatory rhetoric. Every once in awhile someone will say something hateful or crazy on a comment on a Facebook page or blog, but that's about it. But contrast that with the truly inflammatory rhetoric that is on Middle East television every day. Are you concerned about that? They have people on their national TV urging Muslims to stab Israelis to death!"
He said, "I read about that..."
"And they're doing it!" I said a little too loudly. "But that's just one example. They talk about destroying Israel and the United States. They talk about how we are the most evil people on earth and need to be annihilated. This is far beyond inflammatory rhetoric. Some of their people carry it out. And many of the rest support it. That is a very big difference from a comment on Facebook. Their comments are televised and broadcast and their message carries authority just by virtue of being broadcast."
It looked like this point sunk in, and I felt I should kind of wind it down, so I said, "I am also afraid of inflammatory rhetoric on our side. But you can err on the other side — not speaking about it enough. This is a very serious topic that affects all of us and we should all be talking about it and learning about it. Sensibly. Rationally, for sure. But we should talk about it. And see if something can be humanely done about our predicament."
I never try to get anyone to admit they were wrong. That would be foolish. It's enough to make a good point and move on, waiting for the next opportunity, and preparing in the meanwhile, gaining knowledge and skills. I feel he will come around. But I'm taking it slow. I could tell he really didn't like this whole thing. I made a good point using his own words, his own concern, and he couldn't rationally deny that if he's worried about the inflammatory rhetoric of counterjihadists, it would be logically inconsistent to be unconcerned about the inflammatory rhetoric of those who want to destroy us.
He said, "I just don't want..." and he hesitated, trying to find the right words.
But before he could finish his sentence, I finished it for him: "You don't want it to be true."
To which he immediately replied, nodding his head, "Yes, I really don't want it to be true."
"I know, man," I said sympathetically. "I don't either." And we left it at that. I'm going to give him a little time to let it all settle in his mind before I pull him further into this subject. It's a big, bitter pill to swallow, and when you really understand it, your life will never be the same. I think on some level, people recognize this, and that's one of the reasons they resist. They will throw every argument at you they can because, at the bottom of it all, they just don't want it to be true, and I can't blame them.