NEW YORK — The world woke up again to another deadly attack from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant last Tuesday and mourned.
In three coordinated nail bombings in Belgium claimed by the Islamic militant group, two at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, and one at Maalbeek metro station in Brussels, 35 people were killed and at least 270 more were injured.
The attacks quickly sparked a fresh round of debates on Islam and how to treat its adherents.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who last year called for a temporary ban on Muslims after similar terrorist attacks in Paris where 130 people were killed, called for tougher border security. He warned that Brussels was "peanuts" compared to what could happen in the U.S. "We have to be careful — much tougher than we've been" on people coming into the U.S. "at will," he said.
Trump's rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas subsequently declared radical Islam has been waging a war against the West and President Barack Obama has refused to acknowledge it. "They are just the latest in a string of coordinated attacks by radical Islamic terrorists perpetrated [by] those who are waging war against all who do not accept their extreme strain of Islam," Cruz said in a statement. "Radical Islam is at war with us. For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality."
But what is the best way to respond to radical Islam and stem its spread?
A day earlier, across a table at The Muse Hotel in midtown New York City, New York Times bestselling author Nabeel Qureshi discussed a response he details in his new book released earlier this month titled, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward. And a part of his message includes advice to Christians that they can still love Muslims even if some adherents of Islam are trying to wipe them off the planet.
He decided to write the book, he said, to help the average American gain some insight into both Islam and Muslims to facilitate better communication and understanding of both subjects. Right now, he says, there is need for "clarity."
"It's for the average person. It's the person who's heard about Islam in the media who's heard these battles going on between more conservative politicians saying we should keep all Muslims out of the country until we figure something out versus those who say this has nothing to do with Islam. We are hearing all of this. There is a lot of confusion, there is a lot of polarity and not much clarity. No one's actually teasing out the complexities here," said Qureshi, who is a global speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.
"People are so confused right now and there is so little constructive conversation going on that even just saying 'look, see people as people and understand the religion and what it is inherently,' even just saying that, though it seems like a basic step, it would require a herculean effort to accomplish because there is so much division and no one is talking about this," said Qureshi.
"Policy experts, in order to do the right thing, in order to go in the right direction, they have to know what the problem is. They don't know what the problem is because they are not looking at the whole picture," he explained.
And the complete picture, he says, is very complex.
Qureshi was raised as a devout Muslim in the U.S. and grew up studying Islamic apologetics with his family and engaging Christians in religious discussions. He eventually became an apostate after being disabused of the notion that Islam is a religion of peace.
"After years of investigation, I had to face the reality. There is a great deal of violence in Islam, even in the very foundations of the faith, and it is not all defensive. Quite to the contrary, if the traditions about the prophet of Islam are in any way reliable, then Islam glorifies violent jihad arguably more than any other action a Muslim can take," he writes in his book.
"This conclusion led me to a three-pronged fork in the road. Either I could become an apostate and leave Islam, grow apathetic and ignore the prophet, or become 'radicalized' and obey him. The alternative of simply disregarding Muhammad's teachings and continuing as a devout Muslim was not an option in my mind, nor is it for most Muslims, since to be Muslim is to submit to Allah and to follow Muhammad. Apostasy, apathy, or radicalization; those were my choices," he wrote.
And this background is something that even moderate Muslims and apologists who tend to argue that Islam is a religion of peace fail to acknowledge, he explained.
"On the one side you have people who are completely ignoring the history of Islam and what it might have to do with violent Jihadists. On the other side of the picture people are looking at the theology and ignoring the complexities of the religious traditions such that Islam can be manifested as a peaceful practice but only in circumstances where people move beyond the foundational practices," said Qureshi.
Islam's foundational texts and the life of Muhammad depicted in them, he says, makes it difficult to support the narrative that Islam is a religion of peace. The only way to maintain that narrative would be to renounce those parts of the texts.
"The Quran and the life of Muhammad are the issue. If you are able to formulate an Islam that departs from those canonical texts then you get somewhere internally," he said.
Since "Islam has always resisted that kind of a change," he doesn't see it happening. Starting a conversation about the complete contents of the canonical texts of Islam, he says, is a good place to start a discussion about solutions and Answering Jihad highlights that.
"But that's where we need to start looking. We can't just relegate all Muslims to violence because Islam in its core texts is violent. That's what some people are missing on the one side and on the other side people are just closing their eyes to the reality of the texts. We can't do either of those is what I'm saying. Look at all of it together. And then we can formulate a response," he explained.
As the canonical texts of Islam become more readily available on the Internet, the "idea of a moderate Muslim" will also become increasingly difficult to maintain, he adds.