In a conversation last week a colleague I'll call Mansur correctly observed that one of the problems in Pakistan and Afghanistan is that the Taliban go into the Madrasas and indoctrinate the young students with their brand of Islam. The solution, according to Mansur, was for new teachers to teach the students "correct Islam".
When I asked what correct Islam was, Mansur had a ready answer. "Islam," he said, "Means that if anyone kills someone, it is the same as if he killed all humanity. Jihad is not warfare, it is a spiritual struggle to overcome sin. Islam respects women and the Prophet said that heaven is at the feet of mothers."
I realized that Mansur was either using taqiyya to deceive another naive Westerner or did not know much about his own religion, but I did not proceed down either of those two paths. Instead I replied, "Let me tell you how a member of the Taliban would respond to what you just said. He would remind you that you only quoted part of Surat al-Maidah. In that chapter of the Quran, Muhammad was scolding the Jews of Medina for not accepting him as a Prophet. He repeated the Biblical story of Cain killing his brother Abel in 5:32, and added that Allah then told Cain that if anyone killed a person unjustly it would be as if he killed all humanity and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved all humanity. Muhammad then went on to say that the Jews had not listened to Allah's admonition, but continued in their disobedience. The punishment for those who continued to disobey Allah and his Messenger (comment: Muhammad never once in the Quran asks anyone to obey Allah without tacking on "and me as well") was to have their arms and legs cut off (from opposite sides for good measure), and be crucified or killed (Quran 5:33). The phrase you quoted was nothing more than a declaration of war against the Jews."
"You said that Jihad is not about war, but is a spiritual struggle. There are more than 100 verses in the Quran about Jihad, in addition to entire chapters of the Hadith, and 98 percent of them are about the advancement of Islam. For every verse you quote about Jihad being a spiritual struggle, the Jihadist will quote 100 about Jihad and warfare. Muslims in the West love to quote the Hadith where Muhammad, returning from a raid with his warriors, commented that they were returning from the lesser Jihad of war to the greater Jihad of spiritual improvement. But all Muslim scholars acknowledge that this is a weak Hadith and not considered authoritative (comment: Quranic commentator Ibn Taymiyyah says in his book Al-Furqan, "This hadith has no sources and nobody whomsoever in the field of Islamic knowledge has narrated it. Jihad against the disbelivers is the most noble of actions and moreover it is the most important action for the mankind.").
"You also quoted the Hadith where Muhammad said that Paradise is at the feet of mothers. But he said in another authoritative Hadith that Paradise is under the shadow of swords. You might choose the first, but the Jihadist will choose the second. How can you say that your interpretation of Islam, not his, is the "correct Islam"?
Mansur's response was to invite me to attend an upcoming local lecture about Islam that will be given by an "Islamic scholar".
The question remains, "What is correct Islam?" How would Mansur, or the lecturer, explain their version of Islam to an extremist Taliban or Jihadist and persuade him that his is wrong? How would they respond when he quotes ten verses from the Quran, a dozen Hadith, 15 incidents from the life of Muhammad to support his position for every one they can find? They can't, and that is why in the war of words between moderate and extremist Muslims the Jihadists always win.