Religion of Peace

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A graffito in Brazil reading "Islam is peace" in Portuguese, photographed in 2007.

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]

Muslims who are keen to emphasise their rejection of violence have used the phrase "a religion of peace" as a description of Islam, like Dalil Boubakeur, mufti of the Paris Mosque, who said in 2006, "The prophet did not found a terrorist religion, but a religion of peace."[7] After the 7/7 London bombings, some Muslims in the West increased their efforts to present Islam as a peaceful religion.[8]

Mahathir bin Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia said in 2002,

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, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush publicly endorsed the view that 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.[9]

This prompted criticism from some quarters[10] and a poll of United States Evangelical Protestant leaders taken in 2002 revealed that only 10% agreed with Bush that Islam was synonymous with peace.[11]


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."[12]

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.[13]

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." [14]

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.[15][unreliable source?]

On May 13, 2015, the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization released an audio message purporting to come from the mouth of the group's caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who asserted that Islam is not the religion of peace, but rather the religion of violence. If it is in fact Baghdadi speaking in the message, which was posted by the group's al-Furqan media outlet and shared by several ISIS-affiliated websites, it would mark the first time that the public has heard from Baghdadi in months, after it was reported that he was immobilized by a spinal injury resulting from shrapnel wounds from an airstrike. BBC reports that analysts believe that the voice in the audio message, entitled "March Forth Whether Light or Heavy," sounds like Baghdadi's but it's still hard to verify.

In the message, Baghdadi encouraged all Muslims to take up arms and fight in what he labeled "the war of all of Muslims:"

Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting. No one should believe that the war that we are waging is the war of the Islamic State. It is the war of all Muslims, but the Islamic State is spearheading it. It is the war of Muslims against infidels. O Muslims, go to war everywhere. It is the duty of every Muslim.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Islam, Terrorism, and Malaysia's Response (page 2)". Asia Society. 4 February 2002. 
  2. ^ Winn, Craig. "Did Jalal Prove Craig Wrong?". ProphetOfDoom.Net. Archived from the original on 10 December 2006. 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?  (writing about a debate with Jalal Abualrub)
  3. ^ a b Siddiqi, Imraan (5 June 2003). "Ann Coulter's Foul Mouth: The Blond Hate Machine". Counterpunch. Archived from the original on 13 June 2003. Retrieved 2007-11-22. Ann on the other hand, apparently missed this Sunday school lesson, and continues to ridicule Islam sarcastically as the "religion of peace" whenever a negative story arises within the Muslim world. 
  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. ^ "Prophet cartoons enraging Muslims". International Herald Tribune. 2 February 2006. Archived from the original on 4 February 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  8. ^ Nickel, Gordon (13 June 2006). "Islam: A religion of peace?". National Post. Retrieved 22 November 2007. 
  9. ^ ""Islam is Peace" Says President" (Press release). Office of the Press Secretary. 2001-09-17. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  10. ^ Till, Farrell (November 2001). "The Real Culprit". The Skeptical Review. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  11. ^ Green, John (2003-04-07). "Evangelical Views of Islam". EPPC and beliefnet. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  12. ^ Harris, Sam (5 May 2008). "Losing Our Spines to Save Our Necks". Retrieved 19 March 2011.  (updated 25 May 2011)
  13. ^ Jackson, Sherman (Spring–Summer 2002). "Jihad and the Modern World". Journal of Islamic Law and Culture. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ "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. 
  16. ^ "ISIS Caliph Baghdadi in New Audio Message: 'Islam Was Never a Religion of Peace,' Our Jihad Is 'The War of All Muslims'". The Christian Post. 2015-05-15. Archived from the original on 2015-05-16. Retrieved 2015-05-16. 


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