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.