Killing or not killing civilians has nothing to do with the obligation to engage in violent jihad.
I agree, but the distinction is important because the allegation that modern Islamic terrorism - indiscriminate slaughter of infidel civilians - is classically Islamic, is proved false by reading the classical Islamic texts that form the foundation of the orthodox fiqhs.
I’ve read these scholarly commentaries, whereas most people haven’t. The Qur’an doesn’t explain itself apart from the exegetical tradition, any more than the Bible satisfies for understanding Catholicism apart from Sacred Tradition and the Church Fathers.
You can’t just point to a Qur’anic verse and say, “ah, this is a Medinan sura, it comes chronologically after the peaceful Makkan ones, so Islam must condone the slaughter of infidels”. You have to see how Islamic jurists have interpreted the verses in the different schools and in terms of noncombatants, every madhab (school) of Sunni orthodoxy has defined that jihad should strive not to target noncombatants.
So, the Islamic extremist who slit a French priest’s throat in a church a few years back, was clearly acting in a heretical fashion according to Orthodox Islam. And that’s important, I can’t see why you wouldn’t consider it to be of importance.
As for abrogation of the ‘peace verses’, the reality is far more nuanced. The jurist Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafiʿ i (d. 204/820), founder of the Shafi’i school, was the first to permit jihad to be launched against non-Muslims as offensive warfare. The earliest exegetes such as Ibn ʿAbbas, ʿAtaʾ b. Abi Rabah, Mujahid b. Jabr, and Muqatil b. Sulayman had firmly believed that Qurʾan 2:190 forbade the initiation of offensive military hostilities.
Shafi’'i argued that Qurʾan 2:190, which proscribed offensive jihad, was abrogated by the application of Qurʾan 2:190.
This hadn’t been the case in earlier juristic thought.
So, there are possibilities there to revive the other strain in juristic thought that didn’t become canonical but had been prior to Shafi’i and Sunni moderates emphasise this other tradition.
And by the way, I’m not denying the militarism that is more integral to Islam than Christianity. Muhammad, according to the Sunnah, was a military commander. Christ wasn’t. There’s no obfuscating that difference. The Qur’an doesn’t have an ethic of love for enemies (although it does have mercy and tolerance of other views in certain ayats).
But that doesn’t mean that we should caricature Islamic theology in the manner of Robert Spencer’s ridiculous ‘Jihad Watch’.