Is Islam a Religion of Peace?
Over and over, we are told, despite such terrorist attacks committed by Muslims as the one on the Marine barracks by Hezbollah in Beirut when Reagan was President (the Marines being part of a peace-keeping force, not an invading army), and in the case of the first bomb attack on the World Trade Center, and as the near simultaneous bombings of American embassies in two countries in Africa, and as the second, especially murderous attack on 9/11/2001 on the WTC and the Pentagon, and as the bombings of mass transit systems in London and Madrid, etc., that Islam is nevertheless a religion of peace. How is it possible that this religion of peace can have such murderous acts done in the name of the God of this religion, the same God, ostensibly, of the religions of those that they are killing?
I have turned to the web to try to answer this question and have been reading Muslim Herald for enlightenment. There are probably better sites and perhaps readers will direct me to them in comments. At this site it claims that Islam denounces terrorism and goes on to say
In recent times, 'violence' & 'terrorism' has [sic] unfortunately come to be associated with Islam and Muslims. For a religion called "Islam", which derives its meaning from the arabic root word "salama" (meaning: peace/submission), and whose followers do not get tired of greeting each other with "assalamu'alaikum" (meaning: peace be on you), association with the term of 'violence' is quite ironic.I suppose this would be ironic if it were true, but the linguistic claim being made is misleading.
Arabic words are formed from (normally) three letter roots with no vowels and a large number of words can be formed off that root. At a Handbook for Students of Arabic it is noted that
The root word s-l-m is a common example. From the basic verb salima, “to be safe,” we can derive other verbs such as sallama, “to hand over or deliver;” aslama, “to submit;” and istaslama, “to surrender.” The nouns salaam, “peace;” salaama, “health or safety;” and muslim, “a Muslim,” derive from the same roots. Most Arabic-English dictionaries, such as the Hans Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary, will list their entries in root order.I have used italics to highlight cited words to clarify the text here and elsewhere.
Still another linguistic analysis claims:
Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don't necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means `submission', is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam, which means `peace' and so, is the verb Salima. Salama means `the stinging of a snake' or `the tanning of the leather'. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. `Peace', does that also mean that it must be related to the `stinging of the snake' or `the tanning of the leather'?As this site should make clear, trying to make the case that Islam is somehow the religion of peace because the word Islam is related to a word meaning "peace" just doesn't fly. The origin of the name of the religion and of its followers is irreleveant to the teachings of the religion.
In fact, Islam was spread in some cases due to he use of violence and of threats to use violence by Muhammad. At this last mentioned site it goes on to say
Muhammad used to send letters to the kings and leaders of the surrounding countries and tribes, inviting them to surrender to his authority and to believe in him as the messenger of Allah. He always ended his letters with the following two words: "Aslem, Taslam!" [snip] The sentence means `surrender and you will be safe', or in other words, `surrender or face death'.Islam is not unique in the use of violence to spread a religion. Catholic missionaries accompanied Spanish Conquistadors though the New World and their joint efforts spread Catholicism throughout much of Spanish speaking America. There is a difference. Jesus didn't use violence to spread Christianity, nor did his early followers to my knowledge.
At heart of terrorism by Muslims is the concept of "jihad." At the Muslim Herald web site cited earlier it is said
Jihad in Islam is waging peace and justice. Jihad is a war against unjust, oppression, exploitation, tyranny, fear, corruption and denying the masses basic human rights (4:75-76) and to establish justice, peace, freedom, especially freedom of religion, security, equity and social justice (2:193)I think we must conclude that any claim to the effect that Islam is a religion of peace must be balanced by a recognition that it also supports the use of violence. The linguistic claims made by the Muslim Hearald mean nothing as compared to the actions of Muslims and this includes not just acts of terrorism around the world, but the brutal killings of Muslims by Muslims in Iraq.
Muslims are not alone in engaging in violence. But let us not be fooled by linguistic analyses that suggest that Islam is a religion of peace. When I was a kid, the lesson that sunk home with me most about Christ was that his was a message of love. But, of course, that message was as irrelevant to the actions of Christians around the world as is the meaning of "Islam" is to the actions of Muslims.