I recently was in a discussion about Islam where a person said something like, "I had heard that the terrorists were just extremists, and the rest of Islam is peaceful, but then I got some e-mails that said that the goal of Islam is world domination, and that Muslims are allowed to lie about their faith if it serves the goal of spreading Islam, so how can you know what the truth is?"
I was a bit stunned into silence. And the conversation moved on rather quickly, and before I gathered my thoughts, the moment was lost. I'm still planning to go back to this person and see if we can have a longer conversation on Islam, one-on-one, or bring a presentation on Islam to this group that was meeting, but in the meantime, I'm, well, blogging...
I actually hadn't heard this particular myth that Islam was focused on world domination and that Muslims would lie to achieve this, so couldn't be trusted. So I did a web search on "Islam world domination lie" and the first upteen sites that came up were like this one, which screams the headline: "Islam Permits Lying to Deceive Unbelievers and Bring World Domination!"
What I'm finding is that these sorts of websites are very similar to, well, the "New Atheists." Follow me for a moment here...
My major issue with the group of authors who call themselves the "New Atheists" is that they reject any sort of liberal religion as valid. They point to the most extreme examples of religion, particularly Christianity, and say that this is what the scriptures literally says to do. Therefore your extremists in Christianity are the real Christians, and your liberal Christians aren't really Christian. Based on this logic, we can then condemn all Christianity as violent.
This view of Islam says, well, this is what the Qur'an literally says and if a group is interpreting, say, jihad as inner struggle, then they're not really following the Qur'an and not really Muslims and therefore all Islam is violent.
Folks, liberal religion exists in Islam, and it exists in Christianity. And, yes, there are violent extremists in both. There are people bent on world domination in both, and people who will lie to achieve this in both.
And the best way to fight extremism is not to fight the liberals of that faith, label them as equivalent to the extremists, and subject them to persecution.
Here's an analogy to help out: Terrorists are to peaceful Muslims like Imam Rauf as that pastor in Gainesville is to Jim Wallis.