Dare to Ask: Do most Muslims consider killing infidels acceptable or even expected?

By Phillip J. Milano

The Florida Times-Union

Question

Do most Muslims consider killing infidels acceptable or even expected? -- C.D., Johnson City, Tenn. 

Replies

No. Islamic principles forbid targeting civilians in war. To be honest, some people cheered on 9/11. But even they stopped when al-Qaida started targeting Muslims in Muslim countries. -- Karim, 27, Muslim, Los Angeles

Some parts of the Quran are firmly opposed to this. Other parts say it is the right thing to do. Fundamentalists believe the latter. -- Laurie, Jewish, Boston

The Quran is fairly mum on killing non-believers, although the folks targeted by the whacked-out fundamentalists -- Christians and Jews -- are mentioned as "Children of the Book" and are supposed to be respected as kindred monotheists. -- A., 39, Animist female, Missouri

In the Quran there is plenty of backing to kill infidels or make them convert. Even in moderate sections it says you must tax exceedingly high on the infidel until they convert or die from poverty. Of course, in Leviticus [in the Bible] it says if a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night, she should be stoned to death. So I guess everyone picks and chooses. -- Zechariah, Los Angeles

Experts say 

If you want to know how many Muslims think killing infidels is perfectly OK, you might want see how many hold radical views in general. The 2008 book "Who Speaks for Islam?," based on a massive Gallup Poll of Muslims, tried to do just that.

It found, for example, that only 7 percent of Muslims felt the 9/11 attacks were completely justified.

When reminded that that amounted to 100 million Muslims worldwide, co-author Dalia Mogahed told U.S. News & World Report that most of those weren't terrorists but were part of the "cheering section" -- and that 6 percent of Americans said they condoned purposely targeting civilians.

For Muslim comic Ahmed Ahmed, who traveled the globe as part of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, the whole infidel issue is polarizing.

"The Quran is based on interpretation," he said. "And some people who interpret it are extremists."

Ahmed, whose "Just Like Us" documentary about comedians in the Middle East makes its premiere Saturday, April 24, said most Muslims don't force their beliefs on others, but do want to protect their religion.

"And when you see the invasion of Iraq, it makes the Muslim world fearful," he said, adding that the vast majority are peace-loving.

"I'm not plotting against Americans, nobody I know is," he said, laughing. "But hey, if I wanted to, I'd taint our ketchup supply, because America loves ketchup."

Ahmed did say he's pretty sick of all the suspicion.

"Like after 9/11, I'm at the airport and told the woman at the counter I'm a comic and I was running late ... she says 'Say something funny.' I said, 'OK, I just graduated from flight school.'

"She didn't laugh. The lady next to her, though, I heard her whisper, 'That was pretty ---- funny.' "

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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee), moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general column comments to phillip.milano@jacksonville.com. You can also hear his podcasts or watch his TV spots.