Religion of Peace

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A graffito in Brazil reading "Islam is peace" in Portuguese.

Religion of Peace is a political neologism used as a description of Islam. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, some politicians described Islam as a "religion of peace" in an effort to differentiate between Islamic terrorists, Islamism, and non-violent Muslims.[1][2][3]

History of the term[edit]

The Arabic term Islam (إسلام) is derived from aslama, which means "to surrender" or "resign oneself".[4][5] The Arabic word salaam (سلام) ("peace") shares the same consonantal root (s-l-m) with the words Islam and Muslim.[6]

Pacifism in Islam is primarily associated with the Ahmadiyya, Alevi, and Mouride sects.[citation needed] Mainstream Islamic law stipulates detailed regulations for the use of violence, including the use of violence within the family or household, the use of corporal or capital punishment, as well as how and when to wage war.[citation needed]

There are critics of Islam who have argued that the underlying cause and motivation of the September 11, 2001 attacks was the doctrines and beliefs of Islam, and that Islam is intrinsically violent.[7][8][9][10] However, many notable Muslims have maintained that terrorism against civilians is motivated by a misunderstanding of Islamic doctrine. Mahathir bin Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia said,

Clearly Islam the religion is not the cause of terrorism. Islam, as I said, is a religion of peace. However through the centuries, deviations from the true teachings of Islam take place. And so [people who call themselves] "Muslims" kill despite the injunction of their religion against killing especially of innocent people.[1]

In September 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush publicly endorsed this latter view, stating that "Islam is peace":

The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: "In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule." The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war.[11]

This prompted criticism from some quarters[7] and a poll of Evangelical Protestant leaders taken in 2002 revealed that only 10% agreed with Bush that Islam was synonymous with peace.[12]

Muslims who are keen to emphasise their rejection of violence have used the term "a religion of peace” as a description of Islam, like Dalil Boubakeur, mufti of the Paris Mosque, who said, "The prophet did not found a terrorist religion, but a religion of peace."[13] After the 7/7 London bombings, some Muslims in the West increased their efforts to present Islam as a peaceful religion.[14]


The description of Islam as a "religion of peace" has created a great deal of controversy. Neuroscientist and New Atheism writer Sam Harris wrote, "The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn't, we will kill you."[15]

Sherman Jackson believes that the comments of Western politicians about Islam being a "religion of peace" is an attempt at political correctness. However, Jackson asserts that:

"Religion of peace" does not imply that Islam is a pacifist religion, that it rejects the use of violence altogether, as either a moral or a metaphysical evil. "Religion of peace" connotes, rather, that Islam can countenance a state of permanent, peaceful coexistence with other nations and peoples who are not Muslims...This position, I shall argue, is no more than the result of an objective application of principles of Islamic jurisprudence which no jurist or activist, medieval or modern, has claimed to reject.[16]

This use has also been criticized by influential Islamist Sayyid Qutb, who wrote:

The defeatists should fear Allah lest they distort this religion and cause it to become weak on the basis of the claim that it is a religion of peace. Yes, it is the religion of peace but in the sense of saving all of mankind from worshiping anything other than Allah and submitting all of mankind to the rule of Allah." [17]

The term "The Religion of Peace" is used sarcastically by critics of Islam, such as right-wing commentator Ann Coulter.[3]

When asked by reporters in 2005 if Islam was a religion of peace, Pope Benedict XVI declined to "apply generic labels" but stated:

It certainly contains elements that can favor peace, it also has other elements: We must always seek the best elements.[18][unreliable source?]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Islam, Terrorism, and Malaysia's Response Asia Society
  2. ^ e.g Craig Winn when writing about a debate with Jalal Abualrub said For, how could a "religion of peace" have such an open-ended and encompassing edict to destroy anyone who chooses not to submit to it?
  3. ^ a b Siddiqi, Imraan (2003-06-05). "Ann Coulter's Foul Mouth: The Blond Hate Machine". Counterpunch. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  4. ^ L. Gardet; J. Jomier. "Islam". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. 
  5. ^ "Lane's lexicon" (PDF). 
  6. ^ "Islam". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  7. ^ a b Till, Farrell (November 2001). "The Real Culprit". The Skeptical Review. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  8. ^ "Suicide bombing, in the Muslim world at least, is an explicitly religious phenomenon that is inextricable from notions of martyrdom and jihad, predictable on their basis, and sanctified by their logic. It is no more secular an activity than prayer is."Harris, Sam (2004). The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 251. ISBN 0-393-03515-8. 
  9. ^ Sperry, Paul (2005-12-14). "The Pentagon Breaks the Islam Taboo". FrontPageMagazine. 
  10. ^ "Suicide bombers follow Quran, concludes Pentagon briefing". World Net Daily News ( September 27, 2006. 
  11. ^ ""Islam is Peace" Says President" (Press release). Office of the Press Secretary. 2001-09-17. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  12. ^ Green, John (2003-04-07). "Evangelical Views of Islam". EPPC and beliefnet. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  13. ^ "Prophet cartoons enraging Muslims". International Herald Tribune. 2006-02-02. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  14. ^ Nickel, Gordon (2006-06-13). "Islam: A religion of peace?". National Post. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  15. ^ Sam Harris: Losing Our Spines to Save Our Necks. Retrieved on 2011-03-19.
  16. ^ Jackson, Sherman (Spring–Summer 2002). "Jihad and the Modern World". Journal of Islamic Law and Culture. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  17. ^ Qutb, Sayyid. Fiqh al-Da’wah. Fiqh al-Da’wah (IslamQA). pp. 217–222. Archived from the original on 2006-10-17. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  18. ^ "Pope won't call Islam religion of peace". World Net Daily. 2005-07-26. Archived from the original on 2005-12-20. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 


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