In an article that you wrote last week, you said that [Donald Trump] needs to be blaming Islamists, not Muslims. Now, there are probably a lot of people who would say that's a distinction without a difference. For those people, how would you explain the difference?
It is a distinction with a difference. Clearly, everyone would agree that not all Muslims are Islamists. Take ISIS as the most extreme Islamist phenomenon. Clearly there are plenty of Muslims who are fighting it, who don't like it, are appalled by it. So we can't lump all Muslims together in this particular ideology.
My slogan is that radical Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution. In other words, it's a battle between Muslims. And right now the Islamist, or radical Islamic, ideology is rampant, is dominant. But if it's going to be challenged, it's going to be challenged by some other form of Islam.
Surely no one is going to claim that all forms of Islam are the same. There's quietist Islam, there's jihadi Islam – there are many different forms. And we should be supporting, helping, funding, applauding those Muslims who would like an alternative, who reject Islamism and would like a moderate, good-neighborly form of Islam.
I have a number of people I've talked to about this, and some have said the peaceful Muslims are the ones who don't actually understand or believe the Quran. As someone who's studied it, would you agree, or is that a false choice?
It's a false choice. What you're pointing to is an odd symbiosis between the Islamists on the one hand, and the [non-Muslim] anti-Islamic types on the other hand. They both agree that the only form of Islam is Islamism – that you have to want to apply the legal form of Islamic law to be a true Muslim, otherwise you're not serious.
No. Islam is a huge phenomenon. There are many different ways of interpreting it. Just as there are in other major religions. There's not one doctrinal way.