Islam, a religion of peace?

I’ve recently had a couple of encounters with Muslims who insist that my charictarization of Islam as a religion founded on bloodshed and violence is not fair and accurate. In a recent email from a Muslim apologist I was told: “You are absolutely free to think what you want about islam and the prophet Muhammed but I think you are missing a big part of the real history of Muhammed and islam which never used sword and violence except against those who fought him first or those who prevented him from conveying his meesage to people.”

My response to this is as follows (minus the formalities) and I invite anyone out there who still believes I’ve mis-characterized the teachings and history of Mohammad to respond to me.

Dear [Muslim friend],

Thanks for taking the time to write me and address this issue of Mohammad’s moral purity with me.

The fact is that I have studied Mohammad, his life, and his teachings very closely so that my comments which you read, were not made out of ignorance but rather in full view of the facts. Particularly the historical facts which clearly show that Islam since it’s inception violence and war have been actively promoted by it’s founder (Mohammad) and gleefully embraced by the majority of his followers.
This stands in stark contrast with the other prophets Mohammad is supposed to have come from who unanimously preached that the people should trust God and uphold the standard of righteousness found in the Torah which often involved repentance (by both prophets as well as the people) for not having followed the law as they ought.
Mohammad, and his followers’ actions actually run in direct contrast to these teachings. The best evidence of this is seen by “Muhammed and islam which never used sword and violence except against those who fought him first or those who prevented him from conveying his meesage to people”. How is it that the majority of the early followers of Jesus, indeed Jesus himself in accordance with Isiah 53:7, NEVER fought back and instead willingly laid down their lives because of the message they preached trusting that God would be powerful enough to raise up other messengers to preach the message of peace, love, and forgiveness without violating the message by their own actions?
The bottom line is that while both Islam and Christianity both claim (at least on the surface) to be religions of peace, only one has a leader and founder who lived by that message without contradictions or bloodshed.
The truth is that Islam does not preach a message of peace and forgiveness in the same vein as the rest of the prophets in the Tanakh and Gospels, but a message of peace “as long as you…” punctuated by bloodshed and the sword if those conditions aren’t met. In that respect Mohammad and his followers who do take jihad to mean a literal struggle against the infidel which they are to kill wherever they meet are consistently living according to their message which is “submit to me, or else.”
I know you would like to believe that Mohammad’s preaching and actions were peaceful and noble but history, indeed your own words, show that they are anything but. This is why I implore you to consider Jesus’s words that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” and, instead, take a long hard look at the hope both of them offer after this life and whether you can trust that hope.

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