The myth of Islam as a religion of peace

Aug, 2005, Integral World:

Ray Harris is a frequent contributor to Integral World. He has written articles on 9/11, boomeritis, the Iraq war and Third Way politics. Harris lives in Australia:

In seeking to defend Islam against the claim that it promotes violence many Muslims have said that 'Islam' means peace, or that Islam is a religion of peace. Unfortunately this is just plain wrong.


... In saying that Islam means peace Islamic apologists are simply indulging in word play in order to put as positive a spin on things as they can. It is an attempt to argue that Islam promotes non-violence. As we will see such a peace is only available to one who has first surrendered to Allah and it is denied to those who refuse to surrender. Mohammed would sign his treaty offers with the words, aslem taslam, 'surrender and you will be safe'.


... David Cook, author of Understanding Jihad says:

"There is no lack of evidence concerning the Muslim practice of jihad. The classical and modern works on the subject are voluminous, and they are documented by an examination of Muslim actions as recorded by historians. There can be no reasonable doubt that jihad is a major theme running through the entirety of Muslim civilization and is at least one of the major factors in the astounding success of the faith of Islam."

... In fact the four schools (madhhab) of Sunni jurisprudence as well as the Shia tradition only refer to the lesser jihad [holy war]. This means that for many Muslims the concept of the greater jihad [inner struggle] is unorthodox and heretical.
[comments mine]

Dar al'harb

The language of the Koran separates the world into Muslims and kufir (infidels, unbelievers)...

This dichotomy clearly argues that Islam is superior and the unbelievers are therefore inferior. It allows Muslims to look down on non-Muslims with derision and contempt. This has found modern expression in many a Friday night sermon ...

The exemplars: Mohammed and his Companions

One of the enormous difficulties apologists have in trying to depict Islam as a religion of peace is the fact that the new religion was born in violence and that its prophet actually fought and killed ...

There is a common argument that the later passages 'abrogate' (naskh) the earlier passages. That is, when trying to interpret apparently contradictory passages the later passages inform the earlier passages. Unfortunately the later passages are the most violent and the law of abrogation demands the peaceful passages be tempered by the belligerent passages, not the other way around. Many radical Muslims believe that the final command of Mohammed, to 'fully' establish Islam, has yet to be achieved.

... This is the massacre of the Bani Qurayzah, one of the Jewish tribes. Most accounts agree that Mohammed's men dug a long trench, then lined up all the males of fighting age (around 700) and then systematically beheaded them. The women and children were then handed to the victors as slaves. Now this was rather normal behaviour at the time, but it certainly challenges the idea that Mohammed was a man of peace and compassion.

Mohammed's army went on to conquer Mecca and the defeated infidels were given a simple choice, convert or die. The atmosphere of the final revelations are the most violent. These are sometimes called the 'sword verses'.

Fight and slay the unbelievers wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. 9:5

Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them and heal the spirit of the faithful. 9:14

Dhimmi and murtadd

... To begin with infidels must convert or die, atheism or polytheism is not tolerated at all. The People of the Book are able to continue to practice their faith provided they adhere to the dhimmi laws. These laws were often so restrictive that many ordinary Jews and Christians converted simply to make their lives easier ...

Once you had converted to Islam you were forbidden to convert to another religion. Conversion, murtadd, or apostasy, is forbidden under sharia and the punishment is death ...

So if Islam is the religion of peace and if there should be "no compulsion in religion" why is it permissible to kill atheists and polytheists, kill dhimmi as infidels if they break the dhimmi laws and kill apostates? It takes a considerable amount of rhetorical contortion to argue that Islam is a tolerant religion when these rules apply.

What do Islamists want?

According to orthodox Muslims Islam is the perfect system. They are idealists who believe they have a utopian solution. The answer to the world's problems is Islam ...

'But this is NOT the real Islam!'

When confronted with the above moderate Muslims will often reply by arguing that these groups do not represent the real Islam. This is a nonsense. There is no such thing as a real Islam. Rather, there are multiple Islams. In fact the situation is quite absurd. There is no central authority in Islam and rival groups compete with each other to attract followers. As I write this a council of American Muslim scholars has issued a fatwa condemning terrorism. Yet, at the same time a council of orthodox scholars in Indonesia has issued a fatwa condemning moderates. Fatwa at twenty paces! ...

Perhaps the question that should be asked of moderates is this, if the radicals are a minority and if they do not represent the 'real' Islam how is it they have been able to carry on a global jihad on several fronts, jihads that include civil wars, secessionist movements, revolutions, assassinations and global terrorism? The list of countries that have been affected by this global jihad is quite long. As I write this incidents have occurred in England, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kashmir and Bangladesh. The simple fact is that there is broader private support for the Islamists objectives than is ever admitted to publicly and a number are sitting on the fence, waiting to see which way things turn out.


Islam was never a religion of peace. It is a religion based on a warrior code. The evidence is clear, it was made evident in the actions of Mohammed and his Companions. Islam means 'surrender'. It is entirely legitimate to interpret the tradition of Islam as a state of perpetual jihad with the final aim being the defeat of unbelief and the surrender of all to the word of Allah as revealed by His Prophet, Mohammed. It is only when that surrender has been completed that the world will abide in a state of perfection and peace. Many jihadi see themselves as simply following the example set by Mohammed.

Moderate Islam realises that this goal is impossible. However, what the moderates have not yet fully realised is that it is up to them to defeat the radicals. This cannot be done until the power centres of fundamentalism are isolated and choked of support. This is not something that infidels can hope to achieve. What it calls for is a jihad of another kind, a complete reformation of Islam that reinterprets Islam in light of modern history. A reformation that demands the overthrow of sharia law and the discrediting of supremacist and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam ...

And what should we do? We should articulate a fair, free and fearless critique of Islam. We must identify those progressive Muslim voices that are calling for a reformation. And we should continue to refuse to 'surrender'.
Problem: well stated. Solution: too optimistic; a reformation is a long shot.

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