The Religion of Peace?
It is common for Muslims when conversing with non-Muslims, to refer to their religion as one of peace. In Western countries, Muslims are generally taught that Islam is a religion of peace, and it is, as they have experienced no religious wars in this domain because of the rule of law. However, Muslims in the Middle East are not as docile as they are taught that Islam is superior to all other religions. In those countries, like Somalia, Libya and Syria, Islam can be violent. It all depends on where you live and what you are taught.
In 2017, King Salman of Saudi Arabia presented those same qualifications of being a peaceful religion to President Trump at the end of Trump's visit. His words were:
to promote a genuine partnership with the friendly United States of America in a way that serves our common interests and contributes to achieving security, peace, and development for all mankind, which is confirmed by our Islamic religion. (Italics provided by the author)
This is where the use of branding can be brought in for discussion. Product branding is a symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. Churches and religious groups are forced to 'sell god' to be attractive to 'religious consumers.' This use of branding is a topic I discuss at length in my unpublished manuscript, Muslim Mechanics. Here are two examples:
First, when the United States ratified the Constitution in 1788, the Protestants were the majority, and Catholics, Jews, and Muslims were minorities. To refute the national ideal of Protestant supremacy, groups of Protestants, Jews, and Catholics came together in the late 1800s to map out plans to normalize relations between the religions. A "branding" campaign promoted Catholics and Jews as equal to Protestants. The phrase "Judeo-Christian" can be dated to 1899 but did not enter usage in the United States until the 1930s, becoming a common expression in the 1950s. Judeo-Christian is used to link Christianity's and Judaism's shared values and commonalities such as frequent use and reference to the Bible, democracy, laws and financial culture. The more this term is used and accepted, the less Jews and Catholics are viewed as minorities.
Second, in the same vein of thought, Muslims have also tried to brand their religion as the Religion of Peace, based on a popular book by the same name written in 1930 by Ishtiaq Qureshi (d. 1981). Qureshi, a Pakistani historian and government official, wrote the book to promote Islam to western audiences. The term was slow to take off, but by the 1970s, it appeared more and more frequently. In the Qur'an and hadith, there are mentions of peace, but not more than the Christian Bible. For the first 1,300 years of Islamic history, this description of "the religion of peace" was unknown; it occurs nowhere in Islam's texts or traditions right up until the last century.
The phrase "religion of peace" has been steadily publicized by Western leaders in response to terrorism: George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac after 9/11, David Cameron, after Muslim terrorists killed British tourists in Tunisia in 2015, and François Hollande after the Charlie Hebdo shootings. In 2015, President Obama used the term to counter a perceived anti-Muslim bias following the San Bernardino attack. However, if anyone should know if Islam is the religion of peace, it would be the first caliph of ISIL, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies. In 2015, he released an audio message that Islam is not a religion of peace but rather the religion of fighting.
Adherents of Islam want non-Muslims to think that Islam provides a philosophical high of its seemingly peaceful nature. In other words, if you practice Islam, you are not violent unless you are provoked into it. However, Islam does not have a monopoly on peacefulness. John Locke, the most famous British theorist about limited, liberal government, and Thomas Jefferson's mentor, wrote that Christianity is "the most modest and peaceable religion that ever was." Christian theologians tell us that the visio beatifica – the beatific vision of God – is the highest pleasure known to man (1 John 3:2). The Bible teaches that God "who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see" (1 Timothy 6:16), but when God reveals himself to us in heaven "then we shall see face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Both Islam and Christianity share this reward with their followers. In any case, true religion will bring its followers to a point where they want to share with non-followers, thus being the case with Islam and Christianity.
As for Islam being the "religion of peace," this brand slogan will give Muslims something to strive for. Just saying it doesn't make it so.
Picture title: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven; from Gustave Doré's illustrations to the Divine Comedy, Paradiso Canto 31. * Artist: Gustave Doré (1832-1883) * Source: http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/8/7/9/8798/8798-h/images/31-1.jpg