By Joanna Delalande
Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi tackles our response to terrorism in his new book, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward
A former Muslim who grew up studying Islamic apologetics and had seven chapters of the Qur'an memorized at five years old, Dr Nabeel Qureshi is well placed to suggest how we might deal with the threat posed by terrorist acts.
Paris, Brussels, and Turkey are only a few of the countries recently struck by those who call themselves adherents to the so-called 'Islamic State'.
Boko Haram continues to kill Nigerian villagers, and kidnap and massacre school children. This year dozens of Christians died in a bomb blast as they celebrated Easter in Lahore. A football stadium in Iraq was targeted. And two sites in Turkey were recently bombed.
In the midst of pain and death caused by terrorist acts, people are responding with sadness, anger, and fear.
In his new book, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward Nabeel explores jihad and ISIS, and proposes that love is the only way to break the cycle of violence perpetuated by fear and fighting.
Raised a devout Muslim, Nabeel gave up everything and betrayed his family when he turned his back on Islam to pursue Christianity.
Jihad, the religious duty of Muslims to maintain the religion, was not the only reason for the change, though it was a factor.
Over a period of several years and after much study of Christianity and Islam, along with both the Bible and the Qur'an, Nabeel became confident the Bible could be trusted and Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead, and claimed to be God.
Delving into the book he had been reading every day since he was a boy, he also decided that given the violence and sensuality found in his earliest biographies, Muhammad could not be said to be the "holiest man in history", as his religion would have him believe.
"It became abundantly clear why people could be so violent in their practice of Islam, because there were some very, very violent teachings found in the original teachings of Muhammad," Nabeel says.
"The canonical texts of Islam, the Quran, and the Hadith start off peacefully but culminate in unlimited violence. As such, they not only enable those who are predisposed to violence, but they actually spur on into radicalization those who are seeking its teachings and the approval of Allah," he tells Challenge.
In his book, Nabeel explains that even though Muslims are often raised with the teaching that Islam is a religion of peace, when they study the texts for themselves they are faced with the reality of Muhammad and the Qur'an's call for jihad.
"They will stand at the crossroads for only so long before they choose what path they will take—apostasy, apathy, or radicalization," he writes.
Nabeel's book goes much further than explaining why and how Islamic teachings may lead to the justification of violent acts.
He explores how we should answer jihad, and the most appropriate response we should make to terrorist acts.
This is what he writes: "Fear and fighting, both fuel the radical fires. We need something that breaks the cycle, and I think that can only be love."
Ultimately, as he wrestled between Islam (the religion that had accompanied him since birth) and Christianity (the religion that increasingly seemed to tick all the boxes), that was what made him turn away from the teachings of Muhammad and betray his family.
At a time in his life when he was suffering and needed comfort, he turned to the Qur'an for answers. "And it was a rude awakening that there isn't a single verse in the Qur'an designed to comfort a hurting man," he says. "Not one.
"I put it away, turned to the Bible and went to Matthew. It didn't take long for me to get to Matthew chapter 5. Here's what it says: 'Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.'"
He says: "I just fell in love with the Bible at that moment. It was as if God had written those words specifically for me. He knew 2000 years ago that I was going to need comfort in this moment and He knew that I would go to Matthew. He put that verse in Matthew for me.
"And I said, 'Okay. This, this is real. This is the Word of God. This faith is where the truth is found.' And, that's when I ultimately, by reading the Bible, accepted Christ."
What was missing from the Qur'an was love. Nabeel says we should respond to terrorism with love.
"I think it is through love that we will protect our society without condemning the innocent, and even proactively befriend many of those Muslims who would otherwise be radicalized," he tells us.
He writes in Answering Jihad: "The final marching order of Islam is jihad. The final marching orders of Christians are grace and love."•