My position, as a non-believer, on Islam is that I have no problem with it. I just want it, like Christianity, to reform and enlighten. I think Islam needs first a Luther, second a Locke, and third a Voltaire. I therefore support interpretations of the Koran most compatible with liberal democratic principles.
Eugene Volokh has a great post on how Islam presently is teetering on whether to understand their religion in a way more compatible with liberal democratic norms or whether to continue traditional illiberal understandings. Islam, basically, is where Christianity was 300 and some odd years ago.
The question is how best to encourage Islam to so reform and enlighten. Francis Fukuyama argued such was inevitable, at least in terms of how Islam would approach government (who knows whether he was right?). Using the sword to foster the process, as Iraq illustrates, may well be counter productive to that end.
I do hold out hope that Islam can reform and enlighten and I remain unconvinced that, unlike Christianity, it can't.
Why? Conservative Christians take umbrage at the notion that Christian fundamentalism is anything like Muslim fundamentalism. And they have a point. Except for the most extreme Reconstructionists, few evangelicals or Catholics argue that the state should punish the citizen for leaving the Christian religion or otherwise not worshipping in the proper manner.
But the rub is: "Christian Commonwealths" used to. Before Christianity reformed and enlightened, they were not entirely unlike Islam is today in their understanding of Church and State.
Check out the 1641 Massachusets Body of Liberties to see just how different the Christian religion was before the Enlightenment. Christian Reconstructionists might seem, to our 21 Century sentiments, kooks. But what they advocate is the way Christian Commonwealths used to operate pre-Founding. Where they err is when they try to confute the pre-Founding colonial orders with what when down between 1776-1789.
Gary North is the only Reconstructionist who understands the US Constitution is an anti-theocratic document.
The Massachusetts legal code was typical of the pre-Founding era view of "just" laws:
94. Capitall Laws.
Deut. 13. 6, 10.
Deut. 17. 2, 6.
Ex. 22. 20.
If any man after legall conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.
Ex. 22. 18.
Lev. 20. 27.
Dut. 18. 10.
If any man or woeman be a witch, (that is hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit,) They shall be put to death.
Lev. 24. 15, 16.
If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.
The Founding Fathers, as men of the Enlightenment, were religious liberals and completely at odds with the way all colonies except Rhode Island dealt with religion and government in their founding colonial charters of earlier generations.
When I mentioned this on the threads at Volokh, a commenter replied with the following:
Of the Enlightenment and being "enlightened," the primary progenitors of classical liberal political institutions, such as John Locke (checks and balances, private property, consent of the governed) and Montesquieu (separation of powers), were decided advocates of Christianity specifically and religion in general. That obviously doesn't mean they advocated theocracy or were provincial and narrow in their outlook, much to the contrary.
I've never studied Montesquieu's religion in detail (I think he converted to Catholicism on his deathbed?) and there is great debate over just how "Christian" Locke was. Most cautious experts conclude he was, like Milton and Newton, a closeted Arian heretic (whether Arians are "real Christian" is as debatable a proposition as whether Mormons are Christian).
Our key Founders (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton, and a few others) were essentially slightly evolved Lockeans. They advocated "religion" in general and thought Christianity might have an advantage over other religions, not because such was the exclusive way to God, but because Jesus' moral teachings were the best the world had seen. Their approach to religion was essentially civic: Religion was good because of its utilitarian effect -- the way it promoted morality; most, perhaps all religions, including non-Judeo-Christian ones, were valid because they all promoted virtue (they explicitly included Islam as a "sound" religion). Yet, Christianity might be "better" (whenever they talked of Christianity's advantage they invariably used comparative terms like "best" or "better," implying other religions can still be "sound" or "valid,") but only because of the superiority of Jesus' moral teachings, not because of His claim as the second person in the Trinity (which the key Founders tended to disbelieve) or as the only valid path to God (ditto).
That said, they believed the rights of conscience were unalienable. And men of whatever religion (or no religion) equally possessed such unalienable rights of conscience.
Whether states could promote the Christian religion depended on whether such qualified as coerced religious conscience which the Founders believed always violated natural right -- or the Declaration of Independence.
Adams and Washington were more likely to believe such "mild" and "equitable" Establishments promoting Christianity didn't violate natural right (but they demanded non-Christians be entitled to some kind of exemption or accommodation from laws that specifically demanded support of a religion in which they didn't believe). Jefferson and Madison were more likely to demand something closer to strict separation, at least when it came to using government funds for religion.
So "just" governments could promote "religion" to the extent that such didn't violate the natural rights of conscience which all men equally possess.
I think the first step in transforming Islam is to get Muslims to recognize that men of all religions have an unalienable natural right of conscience and that just governments recognize such.
I've read the Bible. And little in it suggests that men have an unalienable natural right to liberty of conscience (or to worship as they choose) as the liberal democrats (our key Founders and the philosophers they followed) argued. If the Bible and the Christian religion can be reconciled with liberal democracy, I'm optimistic that Islam can too.