Does the Koran Advocate Violence?

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"The most dangerous quote, in my view… which mean [sic] the compensation for killing the disbeliever is half the blood money of the Muslim man," he said. "When you devalue the life of non-Muslims, that is the root cause of the problem. Terrorism is the last stop."

What Does Mainstream Islam Teach About Suicide?

Feisal Abdul Rauf is a New York imam who has become well-known for being a central figure in the debate over the construction of a Muslim community center near Ground Zero. He said his faith does not celebrate suicide attempts.

"The killing of innocent civilians is expressly prohibited in Islam, and the killing of one's self is expressly prohibited in Islam," he said.

It's estimated that more than a billion moderate Muslims around the world share this belief.

Most Muslims say they are strongly offended if they are associated with Al Qaeda.

"They're not us. You get radicals everywhere and in every religion," said Roya Zaneti of Cairo, Egypt. "Don't tell me you don't have cults or radical thinkers in the states!"

Zaneti, who described herself as a moderate Muslim, said she harbors some of the angry opinions towards the Western world that radicals do, but she said she makes up her mind from reading newspapers, not the Koran.

When asked what she thought of America, Zaneti said the United States isn't living up to its ideals.

"It's a country that should practice what it preaches," she said. "If it is all for democracy and freedom of speech ... it doesn't do that with other countries. Especially countries it gets into and invades. I'm sorry but who do you think you are?"

Fear of America and Extremists in Islam

In fact, many in the Islamic world think the U.S. and other Western nations are trying to stamp them out because of their beliefs, not the other way around.

"The face they've seen of the West historically has been that of soldiers, missionaries, and today it's Britney Spears," said Grizwald. "The idea is that the Christian West is out to wipe them off the face of the map."

Muslims also share suspicion of their own people in their homelands.

According to experts of the Koran, the text talks about an obscure law called "al taquiya" that encourages its believers to lie about their faith to non-Muslims to avoid persecution. However, extremists have turned this into a diabolical loophole for recruiting.

"They say, 'don't tell your mother that you're going to blow yourself up,'" Eliza Grizwald said. "'This is al taquiya.' It's complete and utter garbage."

The part of the verse radical recruits choose to ignore is the commad for Muslims to "shun false speech."

"Religion is used as an excuse, as the cover," said New York University professor Irshad Manji. "It's politics that poisons everything, not religion."

However, Hamid disagreed and said religion absolutely plays a part. He points out that Christians living in impoverished villages in the Middle East, without democracy, and who are exposed to the same setiment about American foreign policy are not becoming terrorists.

"The religious element cannot be ignored here. Ignoring it is just like ignoring that you are facing a brick wall and you continue to running and insist that doesn't exist," Hamid said. "You will just face the reality at the end."

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