No… and yes.
The answer to the question “Is Islam a religion of peace?” reminds me of the old saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The answer to “Is Islam a religion of peace?” often depends on which “Islam” you are talking about. The Islam that subjects Christians and Jews to dhimmitude and the humiliation of taxation or forced exile, the Islam that beheads men and women, and the Islam that destroys thousands of Muslims, Jews and Christians in suicide bombings is not a religion of peace. Yet, the Islam of my Muslim neighbors in Alabama is a different Islam, one of collaboration and mutual respect. So, which is it, a religion of peace or of war? It’s all a matter of perspective… and for now, the perspective weighs in favor of war, not peace.
Consider the same question, but posed a different way: “Is Christianity a religion of peace and grace?” Most observers acquainted with the works of the Christian church, and acquainted with Scriptural references to Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross, would state that “yes, Christianity reflects and is based on peace and grace.” Yet—would you draw the same conclusion if you based your analysis of Christianity solely on the history of the Protestant Reformation? Estimates of the numbers of Protestants and Catholics killed by each other in the Middle Ages range from 50 to 150 million. Is Christianity a religion of hate, as evidenced only by the deaths of tens of millions of people some 500 years ago? If those actions are the only perspective that you study about Christianity, you would be correct to state that grace and peace had never found its way into Christ’s message.
The Qur’an spans 22 years of recitations made to Muhammad at various times in his life. The recitations that he received in Mecca were largely peaceful, and from them you can gain some very important perspectives about a compassionate and merciful Allah. As conflict arose in Muhammad’s life and he moved to Medina with his new converts, the warlike proclamations in his recitations grew more common, and more severe. As Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the Caliph of the Islamic State, forges across Syria and Iraq pillaging the land and beheading its citizens, he draws only on the warlike traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. Yet, when you visit your local mosque in America, you are not likely to hear the 109 verses of the Qur’an that call Muslims to war with non-believers. So which is it in Islam? A religion of peace… or one of war?
We cannot ignore the savagery of Islamic State and its destruction of the Middle East, nor of Boko Haram and its rape of Nigeria. We cannot turn aside from the atrocities of Al Qaeda, al Shabaab, or the Taliban, all of whom trace their destructive natures to commands in the Qur’an and the Hadith. We cannot ignore the 452 suicide bombings in 2015, of which 451 were carried out by Muslims. But we also cannot ignore the realities of our peaceful neighbors, Muslims with whom we share citizenship, share jobs, or share kinship as fellow residents of our towns and cities. We cannot lump all Muslims into one group, painting every Muslim in the red of Islamic terrorists’ bloody rampage. Nor can we paint all Christians as self-destructive killers of any fellow believers who disagree with them.
We must fight Islamists and Islamic terrorists at every corner of the globe. We must stand up for freedom and oppose the tyranny of Sharia law when it is confounded with the U.S. Constitution. But do not make the mistake of painting every believer… Christian or Muslim… with the brush of hatred and violence. If you do, you fall into the devil’s ingenious trap. He wants us to point fingers at others, while ignoring our own faults. We must find ways to fellowship, to open dialogue between Christian and Muslim, and to discover “common ground.” We must be realistic about the Islamic State and Islamic terror, while we also look for good in the large majority of the rest of humanity.
Is Islam a religion of peace? It depends. Judging by the news, it is not. But don’t miss the opportunity to discover the quiet side of the Islamic faith, the peaceful worshipful side of your American Muslim neighbor. Go “build a bridge” with a Muslim and break bread in the fellowship of a meal. To have a friend, you must first be one.
The world is full of conflict. But, if you look for peace, you will find it.