What Does Niceness Tell You About Someone's Goals or Plans?

One of the employees at the company where I work is a man named Muhammad. He is originally from Ghana but he speaks excellent English. He's a really nice man. He works in a different department, but we have brief interactions once in awhile. He is helpful. Kind. Always quick to say hello and smile. I've talked to him briefly a few times, but earlier today we were alone in the break room and we got to talking about a wine tasting taking place nearby. I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about him (he doesn't know I know anything about Islam), so I asked him, "Do you drink?"

"No, never," he said.

"Have you ever tried it?"

"No, never in my life. I'm Muslim and we don't drink." He thought for a second and then he said, "Well, some of my friends drink, but they're not supposed to. When they do, I don't do it with them."

His answer seemed to indicate that perhaps all his friends were Muslims. So, being the curious type, I asked him, "Do you have any non-Muslim friends?"

Without any seeming embarrassment or hesitation, he said, "No."

So far, this was a perfectly pleasant conversation, with no defensiveness on his part or aggression on my part. Just two people chatting.

I had to get up and go do something. When I came back, another man was talking to Muhammad, and I overheard Muhammad say, "I will do it for one of my children."

I asked him, "How many kids do you have?"

He said, "Thirteen."

I wasn't sure I heard him right, so I said, "Thirteen?!"

He looked very proud and nodded yes. He is 39 years old. It has been a very long time since I've met someone with thirteen children. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever met anyone with that many children.

Of course, all this got me to thinking. He must be somewhat devout (orthodox) if he doesn't drink and has no non-Muslim friends. Those are two clear Muslim rules (written in Islamic doctrine). I was wondering what he might be like if Muslims became the majority here in America (I was thinking of Raymond Ibrahim's Rule of Numbers). Would Muhammad stop being nice? Would he be willing to threaten me with death if I didn't convert to Islam? I don't know for certain.

Even a genuinely nice person who grew up as a Muslim might impose the choice of conversion or death, even if he and I had a cordial and pleasant relationship up to that point, because after all, if he is truly devout, he already feels quite sure I'm doomed to eternal torture in hell. But if he could force me to convert, or scare me into converting, he might think he gave me a chance to make it to paradise (which would, from his point of view, be a nice thing for him to do for me, and plus, of course, it is also a clear Muslim rule, written in Islamic doctrine that when Muslims hold the power, they should offer this choice to non-Muslims).

One of the objections in our Answers to Objections series is, "My friend is a Muslim and he's really nice." People have said this to me and I've heard from many people over the years who have heard this objection from their friends and family. The statement is usually spoken like it invalidates the facts about Islamic doctrine.

And I could say it myself: Most of the Muslims I've ever gotten to know have been very nice people. But it has also become clear to me over the years that "niceness" doesn't really mean anything. Salespeople can be very nice. Politicians are often nice. Sociopaths can be nice. A lot of people who knew Ted Bundy thought he was nice. The same was true of Adolf Hitler.

Niceness doesn't reveal anything about ideology or intent. Niceness tells us nothing about a person's goals or plans. When we are talking about the problem of Islam, niceness is literally irrelevant to the issue. Islamic doctrine says what it says, and Muslims are committed to applying that doctrine in their lives or they aren't. Some of those who are committed to applying the doctrine are nice and some are not. Niceness doesn't tell us anything of real importance.

Let's point this out to everyone who brings it up in our presence. And let's remove this barrier to seeing clearly. Once it is removed, the person you're talking to may discover that she or he really knows nothing else about Islam. And that is a great place to begin a real conversation about the problem of Islam.

In July, Orthodox Muslims Were Urged to Start Forest Fires

On July 26, 2020, the Al-Hayat Media Center uploaded an animated video titled "Incite the Believers" to its Telegram channel. The narrator called upon Muslims living in non-Muslim lands to avenge their Muslim brothers using whatever weapons are available to them and to carry out jihad. Follow the link below if you want to see the video.

The narrator of the film said Muslims should use commonly available items to carry out their attacks and specifically gave the example of fire. He elaborated that fires such as forest fires have killed many non-Muslims and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. The video encourages Muslims to start fires in a fashion that doesn’t draw attention to themselves and to dispose of all forms of evidence as they leave. The video urged viewers to set fire to forests, factories, agricultural fields, and buildings.

The video showed a man marking a location in California on a map to set ablaze.

The above is excerpted from a longer article at MEMRI. Read the whole article and watch the video here:


MEMRI translates television and video clips from the Muslim world into English.

Read more about the video from Homeland Security Today:

ISIS Video Urges Arson as ‘Five-Star’ Terror Tactic, Shows California Burning

According to Wikipedia, the Al-Hayat Media Center is the media wing of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It was established in mid-2014 by ISIS, which targets Western audiences and produces material in English, German, Russian and French. Read the Wikipedia page: Al-Hayat Media Center.

This call to destroy non-Muslims is consistent with Islamic doctrine and Islam's Prime Directive.

The Problem of Islam

The existence of Islamic doctrine presents the non-Muslims of the world with a problem. On the one hand, being a Muslim — at least in theory — means believing in the written Islamic doctrines (the words written in the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sira), which advocate relentless striving to bring all the world under the rule of Islamic law (and authorizes the use of force to do so), teaches that women are worth less than men, and teaches non-Muslims are "the worst of creatures," among many other equally unsavory teachings.

On the other hand, many people who call themselves Muslims don't abide by most of those teachings. They either don't know about the teachings, or they have decided not to follow them. This group may, in fact, be the majority of Muslims.

But the existence of even a majority of Muslims who ignore the written doctrine doesn't prevent Islam from being a problem to non-Muslims. Enough Muslims believe that the Islamic doctrines are valid and strive mightily — even to the point of death — to put those doctrines into practice. And many of them are actively trying to reach the more ambivalent Muslims of the world and convince them that because they don't follow the teachings, they are hypocrites, which is a very bad thing according to Islamic doctrine. So bad, in fact, the penalty for it is death.

A study in Britain found this surprising fact: The children of Muslim immigrants are more likely than their parents to be "radical" (to believe Islamic doctrines should be followed diligently). Recruiters talk to young teenage Muslim boys and tell them that their parents are hypocrites. They are told to read the Koran for themselves and then look at their parents and ask, "Do they actually follow the teachings, or just give it lip service?" And what teenager isn't happy to deride their parents for being hypocrites? But it pushes them toward fundamentalism.

Another aspect of our problem is the indiscriminate acceptance of Muslim immigrants into free countries, and then a lack of pressure by the host country to integrate them into the larger society, which creates the conditions for what Daniel Pipes called "semi-autonomous sectors" to develop. Others have called them (somewhat — but only somewhat — mistakenly) "no-go zones." These are areas where Muslims concentrate, and as their numbers increase in that area, the more devout among them start exerting pressure on the rest of the Muslims to conform to Islamic standards. And of course, the Muslims-in-name-only cannot successfully argue against these Islamic standards because it's all written down in clear and forceful language in the books they supposedly believe are sacred. So they conform. The women cover up. The men attend the mosque (or they are harassed), dress differently, grow a beard, etc. The non-Muslims in the area are also harassed until they move away, making room for more Muslims to move to the area.

This is all in accordance with Islamic teachings and the example of Muhammad: If a group of Muslims can, they should enforce Islamic standards (they are Allah's standards, after all, and should be the standards for all people), and when Muslims gain political power, they should impinge these standards on everyone, including non-Muslims.

This manifests itself in a different way by shutting down free speech by force. When the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists made fun of Islam, for example, 12 of them were murdered for it. When Theo Van Gogh made a film critical of Islam's treatment of women, he was shot to death. Salman Rushdie wrote a novel critical of Islam and the devout Islamic ruler of Iran ordered his assassination. So far, he has avoided being murdered. The examples go on and on.

Muhammad himself did the same thing. And it says in the Koran (91 times) that a Muslim should follow Muhammad's example in all things. People during Muhammad's lifetime were assassinated with Muhammad's approval or request for the "crime" of criticizing Islam or Muhammad.

To some degree, the method has worked: Islamic standards have been imposed on non-Muslims. The Islamic standard referred to above says nobody can make fun of Islam or Muhammad. By rioting and killing, devoted followers of Islamic doctrine are instituting this Islamic rule worldwide on everyone. After the 2006 "cartoon riots," very few newspapers in the world had the courage to re-publish the cartoons. Almost everyone was cowed into silence. In other words, free speech was shut down on that subject. There was even a book published about the whole event, and the book didn't even show the cartoons! It wasn't quite as bad after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, but many major newspapers refused to re-publish the cartoons.

Another problem with Islam is that the penalty for leaving the religion is death. Freedom of religion is not an option with Islam. The death penalty is actually enforced in some Muslim countries, and a reasonable argument could be made that it is enforced in some non-Muslim countries too, if we count Muslim parents killing their daughters for going out with a non-Muslim boy or in other ways acting non-Muslim. These are called "honor killings" and they are carried out because the parents are following the written Islamic teachings.

In other words, many of the regular, mainstream teachings of Islam are major human rights violations when they are put into practice. We can't ignore this problem, but we can't really "solve" it either. What can be done when a billion and a half people claim allegiance to an ideology that is incompatible with freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and human rights, especially for women? Going to war with all of them would be ridiculous. Not doing anything at all would be equally ridiculous. But what can be done?

That's the problem of Islam.

So far, we have only one strong conclusion: The solution will begin with learning what Islam really teaches and dealing with an accurate understanding of the written doctrine, rather than trying to make each other believe things that aren't true. Whatever solutions non-Muslims come up with should at least be based on reality and not on wishful thinking. That much seems clear. Learn some ideas about what might be done here.

Love in the Koran

The following is an excerpt from the book, A Simple Koran

While there are 300 references in the Koran to Allah and fear, there are 49 references to love. Of these references, 39 are negative, such as the 14 negative references to love of money, power, other gods, and status. 

Three verses command humanity to love Allah and two verses are about how Allah loves a believer. There are 25 verses about how Allah does not love Kafirs (non-Muslims). 

This leaves five verses about love. Of these five, three are about loving kin or a Muslim brother. One verse commands a Muslim to give for the love of Allah. This leaves only one quasi-universal verse about love:

Give what you love to charity. 

But even this is contaminated by dualism since Muslim charity (the zakat) only goes to other Muslims.

There is not one verse about either compassion or love of a Kafir, but there are twelve verses that teach that a Muslim is not a friend of the Kafir.

Basic Principles of Islam

The following is the article What Makes Islam So Successful? separated into a linked outline. I thought it might be useful to break each of the elements into separate posts. Here are some of the key components of the package of ideas (or bundle of beliefs) known as Islam:

1. A standardized version of the idea-collection is written down.

2. The Quran includes instructions for its own spread.

3. The idea-collection includes instructions for its own preservation, protection, and duplication.

4. Islamic doctrine commands its followers to create a government that supports it.

5. Permission to spread the religion by war.

6. Lands must be conquered.

7. The idea-collection provides new soldiers by allowing polygamy.

8. It is a punishable offense to criticize Islam.

9. You can't leave Islam once you're in.

10. Islam must be your first allegiance.

11. Dying while fighting for Islam is the ONLY way to guarantee a man's entrance into Paradise.

12. You must read the Quran in Arabic.

13. You must pray five times a day.

14. The prayers involve moving together in time.

15. A woman is in a thoroughly subordinate position.

16. The only way a woman can guarantee her passage into Paradise is if her husband is happy with her when she dies.

17. Allah gives Himself permission to edit His own work.

18. The Quran uses the carrot and stick to reinforce behavior.

19. Islam provides a huge and inspiring goal.

20. Non-Muslims must pay a large tax.

21. A Muslim is forbidden to make friends with a non-Muslim.

22. The Quran counsels the use of deceit when dealing with non-Muslims.

23. Islam must always be defended.

24. Islamic writings teach the use of pretext to initiate hostilities.

25. The explicit use of double standards.

26. It is forbidden to kill a Muslim (except for a just cause).

27. If Muslims drift away from Mohammed's teachings, Allah will end the world.

28. The message in a standard Quran is difficult to decipher.


What should we do with this information about Islam? That's a good question. For some, the solution is to hate Muslims, but that doesn't make any sense. Most Muslims had no choice in their religion, and many of them don't know as much about their own religion as you now do.

I think the best thing any of us can do is to simply help other non-Muslims learn about Islam. Because Islam is so successful, its teachings are becoming more and more influential on the world stage, and its built-in aggressiveness should be curbed. But the only way it can be curbed is if enough people know about it. The way we understand Islam determines what policies we collectively endorse or reject about it.

So first, learn more about it. And then share what you know with others. And let them know what they can do about it too. To learn more, I suggest you first read the Quran. This is the version I recommend.

Learn more about the details of Islamic doctrine here.

If you'd like to do something more, start here: What Can You Do About It?

The Allegory of Pleasantville

As an allegory, Pleasantville beautifully depicts both the appeal and the downside of Islam's prime directive. For eight years, I have been immersed in studying about Islam and Islamic states like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan (when the Taliban were running things).

One of the most surprising things I discovered is that according to mainstream Islamic teachings, it is a Muslim's religious duty to strive to create an Islamic state (applying Sharia law), wherever they live. Naturally, many Muslims have no intention of following this particular teaching. Some have come to free countries to get away from Sharia.

Sharia law is Allah's holy law, and the Quran urges Muslims to live according to Allah's law, and if that's not the law where she or he lives, s/he should work to change it; to bring it closer to Sharia. Read more about the basic principles of Islam here.

I recently watched the movie, Pleasantville. I'd seen the movie before I learned about Islam, and this time I saw it in a new light.

Let's look at the parallels between Pleasantville and Sharia law. First, someone had a vision of a perfect world. In the movie, it was the creator of the Pleasantville TV show, and in Islam, it was Muhammad (or Allah speaking through Muhammad). They each had a vision of an ideal world.

Now, if everybody does what they're supposed to do, this vision can become a reality and people can enjoy a peaceful, orderly society. The key is getting everyone to do what they're supposed to do. The problem is, people love freedom. And of course freedom brings with it unwanted side-effects, as you see in the movie (and as you can see by looking around you).

But the lack of freedom also has side-effects. Which is better, living in a Pleasantville world but having to do what you're supposed to do all the time — or living a life where you choose your own destiny but also have to live in a society with others who are choosing their destiny too? I don't know who can answer that question for all of us, but I know which one I prefer. I want freedom.

Pleasantville is a movie about the danger and the splendor of freedom.

When the movie begins, the teenager, David, is in a modern American high school, living in a free society complete with its dangers and side-effects. David is a fan of an old television show from the fifties. Everything was perfect in the show. It was an ideal world where people treated each other courteously, parents had loving, conflict-free marriages, and kids were wholesome and innocent. David yearns for a life like that instead of the messy, chaotic world he lives in. And he gets his wish.

But he discovers that there is a cost to living in paradise — a drastic lack of freedom. In the movie, when the teenagers started having sex and the world was going Technicolor, the leaders of the town were horrified. Things were getting out of control. And you can see they had good intentions when they tried to make it go back to the way it was.

That's what the Taliban did. And Iran. And Syria. And what Saudi Arabia is doing. They're trying to make it go back to the way it was. They're trying to fulfill the vision of Muhammad's perfect world. They are struggling against human beings' natural desire for freedom. They have to use force to get people to do what they're supposed to do all the time. They often use extreme force and they still can't get everyone to conform.

And who hasn't had the same conflict in their own life? Haven't you? Haven't you gone through cycles of cracking down on yourself and then loosening up? Haven't you ever gotten a regimen all worked out so you can get in shape or get your debts paid off and then after awhile you start feeling closed in by your regimen and you want to break out of the restricting and regimented monotony?

When I was younger, I spent many fruitless hours trying to come up with the perfect system. A perfect week would have a defined number of hours of exercise, a specified amount of communication with loved ones, writing time, goofing off time, etc. A perfect life plan is not very difficult to come up with. But actually doing it turns into a nightmare of routine. Most people would never do something like that voluntarily for very long. I loved creating the perfect system, but I hated living in it. And it was my system. What if some else created the system? It would be nearly impossible to make me conform to it.

Our longing for freedom and change and adventure always makes us want to break out. The only way a regime like that can realistically be done is to enforce the system from the outside. If you could make everyone in a society follow the perfect system, you could have a perfect society.

In the movie Pleasantville, the men join together and try to restore order, under the banner of the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce. They try to enforce pleasant behavior. They create a code of conduct for everyone to live by and they punish the ones who rebel. And what you see is what happens in real life. People feel a conflict. Yes, they want a pleasant society, but not at the cost of their personal freedoms.

Many wonderful and terrible things didn't exist in the perfect world of Pleasantville: Art, sex, women's rights, creativity, exciting music, novelty, love, passion, anger, bigotry, awakening, self-discovery, self-expression, disagreement, conflict, change, violence, book-burning, discovery, exploration, experimentation, new experience, rebellion, defiance, personal growth, and the list goes on and on. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

What does it take to keep the ugly and bad stuff away? You have to get rid of a lot of the good stuff. That's what it takes. And you have to make it a crime to step out of line. You have to have punishments. So the perfect world has its own ugly side. Sharia law says if you steal something, you must have your hand cut off. If you have premarital sex or drink alcohol, you get flogged. For adultery, you get stoned to death.

The punishments are intentionally extreme so they are a strong deterrent. They don't cut very many hands off because that law really discourages theft, and after getting caught twice, you don't have any hands left to steal anything with. I'm not advocating this by any means. You already know how I feel. I believe in freedom.

But the point of all this is I think the movie, Pleasantville, could help freedom-lovers sympathize with the perfect-world-lovers because after all, we in the audience are also attracted to the perfect world of Pleasantville at first. We sympathize with David, who wants to get away from his ugly, sometimes painful life, and doesn't realize or appreciate how much freedom he enjoys until it is taken away from him.

And the movie could also help the perfect-world-lovers see the beauty and magnificence of freedom — and the joy of not knowing what's going to happen next. And the satisfaction of choosing your own destiny.

In one of the scenes in the movie, David and his girlfriend are sitting on the shore of a pond. She'd just found out David has seen the world outside of Pleasantville. She never has, and until recently, didn't even know it existed. She asks him, "So what's it like out there?"

He thinks about it and tries to describe it to someone who has never seen it. He says, "Well...it's louder. And scarier, I guess. And it's a lot more dangerous."

"It sounds fantastic!" she says enthusiastically. Sure. For someone whose life has been ordered and perfect, freedom, danger, and the unexpected would be like cool water to someone dying of thirst. That's the glory and the downside of human nature living in a free society.

With freedom, you have to learn to live with the fact that things aren't the same any more and never will be. That's both tragic and wonderful.

Once you sympathize with the perfect-worlders, you understand them better, and maybe it will make it easier to find the solutions to the many problems they create as they go about trying to push things toward their vision. This pushing can take many forms. Obviously, with some really dedicated people, it may involve violence. But the smarter ones find other ways. Read more about that here: Gentle Jihad.

Learning about the history and teachings of Islam is fascinating. If you'd like to know more, I suggest you read the Quran. Here is an easy version to read.

You can learn more right now if you'd like. Check out What Makes Islam So Successful?