LETTER: Islam isn't all black and white

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Sir: Although Conor Cruise O'Brien's article is a fresh and rather unique approach to confronting the problems of the so-called "Islamic fundamentalism", I feel it necessary to dispel some of his misconceptions about Islam.

He seems to believe that the Prophet Muhammad taught that the attitude of his followers towards unbelievers should be to "kill them or beat them into submission". This assertion contradicts the Koran, which states: "There is no compulsion in religion" (Surah 2:56).

Also the Koran commands Muslims to impose a capitation tax on conquered unbelievers and not to "beat them into submission", as Dr O'Brien asserts. The Prophet himself made several peace treaties with the Jews of southern Arabia, rather than killing them or converting them by force.

Had Muslims been instructed to force non-Muslims to submit, then why is India today a prominently Hindu nation and Spain a Christian one, when both were once under long spells of Muslim rule?

Yours faithfully, MEDHI R. HASAN (age 15 years)

Harrow, Middlesex 8 January