In fact, the principle of fighting in Islam is self-defensive: "To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily, God is most powerful for their aid...If God did not defend one set of people by means of another, then monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure, would surely have been destroyed..." (22:39-40)

Notice that the reason the Qur'an gives for waging war, as a last resort, is for the protection of churches, synagogues, and mosques--so much for Islam's "intolerance."

Further, Muslims are commanded not to be aggressive: "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors" (2:190) In addition, when the enemy inclines toward peace, Muslims are commanded to cease hostilities: "But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace" (8:61). The guiding principle of Islam with respect to non-Muslims is one of tolerance and mutual respect, plain and simple: "God does not forbid you from dealing kindly and justly with those who do not fight you for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes: for God loveth those who are just." (60:8)

Then there is the issue of how the Qur'an treats Jews and Christians. Some have claimed that the Qur'an says Jews are consigned to "humiliation and wretchedness" (2:61), try to introduce corruption (5:64), have always been disobedient (5:78), and are enemies of God (2:97-98). When addressing verses that, on the surface, seem to be derogatory toward Jews, again, it is essential that the verses be placed in context (remember Scriptural Exegesis 101).

Verse 2:61 refers to those of the Children of Israel who were disobedient to Moses after being freed from Egyptian bondage, not all Jews. The text of verses 2:97-98 refer to those who are "enemies of Archangel Gabriel," not Jews. Verses 5:64 and 5:78 speak of the Jews who were disobedient to God and His Prophets, again not all Jews.

When sincere scholarship and exegesis is applied to the Qur'an, it becomes a clear that the claim of the Qur'an's anti-Semitism is an absurd fallacy.

In the Qur'an, Jews and Christians are given the honorific title of "People of the Book." The Prophet was the last in the line of Prophets and Messengers, dating back to Adam, and Islam is nothing more than the continuation and completion of their message. Thus, the Qur'an acknowledges and respects the prior messages of Moses and Jesus.

The Torah is described as "a guide to mankind" (3:3) and the Gospel of Jesus as having "guidance and light" (5:46). While the Qur'an rejects the notion of the divinity and crucifixion of Jesus, the Jewish Prophets that are named in the Qur'an are highly honored: "And we gave him [Abraham] Isaac and Jacob, each did We guide, and Noah We did guide before; and of his descendants David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, and Aaron; and thus do We reward those who do good. And Zechariah, John (the Baptist), Jesus, and Elias; every one was of the righteous. And Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah, and Lot; each one we favored above all others" (6:84-86).

Further belying the accusation of the Qur'an's anti-Judeo-Christian stance is this passage: "Those who believe and those who are Jews, Christians, and Sabeans; any who believe in God and the Last Day and work righteousness shall have their reward with their Lord and on them shall be no fear and they will not grieve" (2:62).

I neither deny nor dismiss the existence of Muslims who use the Qur'an to justify their acts of terrorism and murder. These Muslims, like Islam's conservative critics, also misquote or quote the Qur'an out of context. In fact, anyone with sinister intentions can quote a verse of scripture out of context to seemingly prove a point. Biblical verses, quoted out of context, have been used to condone murder, violence, slavery, racism, and anti-Semitism, all in the name of God, throughout history. Further, take this passage from I Corinthians: "For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." (I Corinthians 11:8-9) Can I conclude that Christianity is a sexist religion that seeks to opress women? Is it fair to characterize misinterpretations of Biblical scripture as tenets of Christianity or Judaism? Absolutely not. Islam must be accorded this same treatment.

In addition to quoting Qur'anic verses out of context, Islam's attackers project the opinions of a small handful of Islamic scholars upon all of Islam, as if Islam is a monolithic blob that can be packaged and labeled as this or that. Such insincere and disingenuous scholarship is wrong and fans the flames of hatred.

It is this fueling of hatred and intolerance against American Muslims that threatens to destroy the fabric of our nation's unity.

It must be stopped before it is too late.