The Islamic State and ‘Religion of Peace’

by Clive Kessler
September 26, 2014

……When apologists, often well-meaning people, retreat into the stock affirmation that Islam is really “a religion of peace”, they are entering a zone of evasion and delusion. Once they offer this assertion or intended exculpation, there is a question to be answered. If Islam is a religion of peace, then where does this violence, this awful penchant for religiously justified violence, come from? The answer invariably is that there are people who do not really understand Islam. And it is their fault. Whether out of malice or ignorance, these people offer in the name and with the supposed imprimatur of Islam a message of violence that is foreign to Islam, or what the apologists choose to regard as “properly understood Islam”, one that in their view has no roots within the religion or historical traditions of Islam.

As an explanation this is inadequate. More of that in a moment. But first, when proffered as a strategy of “counter-radicalization” among disaffected young Muslims, it is in its own terms doomed. While this approach may imagine it can handle the “ignorant” part by means of “education” and “correct Islamic messaging”, it has no answer for “malice”, for how to deal with and counter its destructive workings.

The question is not, as the apologists offering this approach always suggest, “Who is behind this misappropriation of Islam?” It is not a matter of finding a puppet-master or evil operator who, by misrepresenting the faith, is constantly manipulating good and decent people within the local Muslim community or worldwide ummah.

One must ask, and be brave enough to ask, a different question: What is it, within formal, doctrinal Islam and then, on that (perhaps selective but still identifiable) basis within the Islamic tradition and in Islamic history from which that powerful tradition is “sedimented”, that underpins and drives-and perhaps, as some see it, validates-this kind of gruesome, barbaric action: by Muslims, acting as committed Muslims, and in the name and in the “defense” or “promotion” of Islam?……


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