543 Is Islam a Religion of Peace?


Update: I have received feedback to this blog (in blue and green; at the bottom)


In a previous blog  506 Multiculturalism, Islam and Islamism,  I wrote:

The only solution (for the conflict between Islam and the West) I can see is that we do include Islam under the umbrella of multiculturalism, as difficult as it may be with the minority of Islamists who resist integration. It does mean that we have to engage with Muslims through dialogue … 

In the wake of that blog I had made a promise to a reader I would rethink the issue of Islam & Islamism. This promise lead me to Professor Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, the preeminent Palestinian peace activist. It has been a long journey for me, from Sam Harris via Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the professor. A lot of reading has been involved.

SMH photo, Dallas Kilponen

When I came across the writings of Sam Harris in regard to Islam, I was shocked; read why here. Then I was made aware of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's plea to encourage an Islamic revolution.

The next step was reading in the SMH an article about Professor Dajani, in which he said, “We have to have reform, not in Islam but in the way it is being taught.” Subsequently I fired off an email in which I asked:

"I am very interested in the concept of reform in Islam since reading books by Sam Harris and (excerps of books by) Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali calls for a reform of Islam, in view of the fact that Islamists - apparently - are instigating believers to either "convert or kill infidels."

"Can you please clarify to me and readers of my blogs (506, 500, 487, 433, 426, and particularly: 418, 417) why it should not be necessary to reform Islam itself, but just the way it is being taught."

In response Prof. Dajani sent me a bunch of articles he had written over time ... below are some excerpts and links to the full articles. 

Update:  I posed another question to the professor as regards the position of women in Islam, opening a new line of inquiry, for which I created a new page; if that issue is of interest to you, go here.

This now is the corollary of what happened to me since I read Sam Harris first: I realise that Harris is viewing Islam in a very narrow angle. I dare say, he does what many fundamentalists do: Harris cherry-picks and interprets certain passages ... just like the extremists do, who use passages in the Islamic scriptures that motivate them to fight their form of jihad. Harris says (words to the effect of ...) 'Just look at a their scriptures, it's right there.' Indeed, I now have done just that ... but from a different angle than Harris, and I urge you to do the same. The name of this game is, moderation ... or Wasatia.

Why Wasatia? Professor Dajani:

"I was brought up that religion teaches moderation, love, peace, reconciliation, compassion, empathy, tolerance, understanding and respect for the other ... that it strives to guide the people to God* and to enlighten humanity to the straight middle way leading to God*; that it advocates a world characterized as multi-nations, multi-cultures, multi-religions, multi-languages.


"The Wasatia Movement aims to stand up to those extremists who have used religion to commit violence and atrocities and to promote hatred and enmity with the other."

* as an atheist, I would substitute the term "God" with "the truth". C.B.

Myself, I've long learnt to make a distinction between Islam and Islamism; blog 506. Frankly, that is the crux of the matter. As to the question of Islam, I go with Barak Obama (I first quoted this in my blog 487); he said as recently as Feb 2015 (BBC):

"… the US is "not at war with Islam - we are at war with the people who have perverted Islam". He was speaking to representatives from 60 nations attending an event on extremism that follows attacks in Denmark and France. Mr Obama said the world had to confront the ideologies that radicalise people.

He said those heading groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda were not religious leaders but terrorists. Mr Obama said associating Islamic State or al-Qaeda with Islam would be buying into the propaganda of those groups, challenging critics who have questioned him for not describing recent attacks as the work of "Islamic radicals".

The fact is, my research has confirmed what I knew all along (and this is the reason why Sam Harris' writings shocked me so): At their core religions teach exactly what Prof. Dajani lists above; the problem is how the original religious teachings are being distorted and mis-interpreted by both believers and non-believers. This leads to the issues we have with intolerance, fundamentalism and ultimately extremism. 

I have essays RELIGION 1, RELIGION 2, RELIGION 3 in my book with no title ... but instead three definitions for the term en.light.en.ment

To counter the forces of intolerance I strongly feel it is paramount for us here in Australia (if not for everybody around the world) to support moderate Muslims and their ideas. We all have to fend off Islamists and their concepts of fighting their Jihad, which means to bring down the West and the Western way of life. Moderate Islam is a religion that espouses peace, tolerance and co-operation, indeed co-existence of all religions ... and note, that issue - of reforming Islam - actually is addressed here too, in his article below ... A Plea for Moderate Islam.

I know that some people will say, "Oh, you have totally fallen for their propaganda." But I know now that they are wrong. I urge you to read at least the excerpts below, if not the whole articles. Inform yourself ... open your mind. If you are at all interested in this issue - the issue of peace - read up on Wasatia (= moderation, centrism):

Wasatia Movement Goals 

The Wasatia movement was created in January 2007 as non-governmental, non-profit, non-political initiative ... its declared goals are:

(a) To bring a deeper and more rational understanding of Islam to Moslems as well as to non-Moslems.

(b) To clarify the distortions to which Islam has been subjected at home and in the West.

(c) To educate Palestinians on taboo topics such as the Holocaust taking a new humanistic approach.

(d) To seek answers for the deep religious, political, social, and economic crises inflicting the Palestinian society.

(e) To strive and work for ending the Israeli military occupation through negotiations and peaceful means.

(f) To spread and promote Islamic tolerant concepts, values and principles within the Palestinian community.

(g) To encourage the practice of moderation among Palestinians in order to mitigate religious radicalism and bigotry and reduce political extremism.

(h) To bring a message of peace, moderation, justice, coexistence, tolerance, and reconciliation to Palestinian community through vocal civic leaders.

(i) To teach creative and critical thinking and open-mindedness.

(j) to empower the potential for leadership in their society. The goal of dialogue and education is to deconstruct mythologies and distortions and misinterpretations and to promote knowledge and empathy for the other.

Wasatia is a term extracted from the Quranic verse: {“Thus have We made of you an Ummatan Wasatan (justly balanced- Mid-ground nation).”}  [Cow Sura (286 verses): 143]; wasat in Arabic means: 

1.        center - center of table   

2.        middle - middle of road

3.        moderate, temperate

4.        justice


These are different expressions calling upon humanity to avoid extremism and adopt moderation:


       Aristotle’s “The Golden Mean”

       Buddha’s “The Middle Path”

       Maimonides’concept of the mida beinonit, “the Doctrine of the Mean”

       Ibn Taymiyya’s “The Middle Way”

       Hegel’s “Synthesis of Opposites”


Professor Dajani: "Wasatia addresses all aspects of life: the way we eat, the way we dress, the way we spend money. Moderation is a value shared with the various thinkers and philosophers as well as all faiths and therefore could become a fruitful foundation for dialogue to achieve peace and reconciliation."

From … Teaching Our Children Islam's True Message

In my two visits to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland, I learned that holocausts and genocides do not occur in a vacuum. Rather, there is almost always a vicious campaign of incitement directed against the target group preceding them. What is troubling today, with the recent uptick in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents worldwide, is that extremists and zealots are not the only ones inciting their followers. In a number of Arab countries, Muslim children are taught ideas that distort the true meaning of the Quran and hadith too.

The Quran urges Muslims to invite non-Muslims into a “respectful” and “gentle” dialogue on religious matters, with “wisdom and beautiful preaching.” When disagreement or acrimony begin to prevail, the Quran in Surat al-Kafirun instructs Muslims to say, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion,” and in Surat al- Kahf, “And say, the truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills - let him believe; and whoever wills - let him disbelieve.” This is what our children and youth ought to learn.

From … Reconciliation in the Midst of Conflict

As a Muslim, I feel shame for what some individuals and groups are doing in the name of my religion. But I also feel very proud when I read about the tolerance and mercy of the second caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab, who saw an old Jew begging and allocated for him a monthly salary; or Saladin, who sent his physician to treat his sick enemy Richard the Lionheart; or the illuminating history of Andalusia, where Islam, Christianity, and Judaism coexisted in peace and harmony.

That is what the Wasatia initiative is all about. We aspire to leave a legacy of peace, forbearance, coexistence, reconciliation, compassion, empathy, and respect. This is the inheritance we would like to leave to our children. It may now seem like a dream, but deep in my heart I feel one day it will become a reality.

The voices of wisdom and moderation should grow louder. The moderate majority should not remain bystanders when mayhem looms. We need to overcome our obsession with failure and invest in the future. Reconciliation is the starting point and it should commence today for peace to prevail.

From … A Plea for Moderate Islam

To mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi delivered an impassioned speech at Al-Azhar University calling for reforming Islam and purging the religion of extremist ideas. This call should not be taken lightly, particularly in the aftermath of the tragic spate of terrorist attacks in Paris. However, it does provoke several difficult questions: How can we reform Islam? How can Islam, and for that matter all religions, be purged of radicals and extremists who preach and practice hate and intolerance in the name of God? Can the state impose religious reform without the support of official religious authorities? Can there be an honest and enlightened interpretation of the Quran without sparking a counterrevolution?

From … Wasatia Movement of Moderate Islam: An Exclusive Interview with Professor Mohammed Dajani

What was your inspiration for starting Al Wasatia?

It was in late 2006 during the month of Ramadan. My house used to overlook the Dahiet al-Barid / Ram Checkpoint. I was standing on the balcony of my office and saw hundreds of Palestinians from the West Bank trying to pass the checkpoint to go to Jerusalem to pray in al-Haram al-Sharif and al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint pushed them back and threw tear gas grenades at them, but to no avail. The wind sent the tear gas in my direction more than hundred meters away. I expected shooting and heavy media coverage, but suddenly, I noticed that things cooled down. When I inquired, I found out that a compromise was reached between the leading officer and the people. The Israeli army provided buses, which took the Palestinians to Jerusalem to pray, while holding their identity cards, and gave them back upon their return.

This episode made me think: Such people are religious, but moderately so. Had they been extremists, they would have refused to negotiate, using violence to get media attention. However, they opted to negotiate and use dialogue to reach a win-win peaceful compromise.

Then the question came to my mind: Who represents the religious moderates in Palestine? There are more than ten religious Islamist parties in Palestine, but they all advocate a radical Islam. As a result, Wasatia was established on January 1, 2007 and the first annual Wasatia conference was held on March 21, 2007, marking the beginning of spring.


Update: I've received feedback to this blog (in blue), the full feedback email below ...

... of the 1.5 billion muslims in the world, only a tiny, tiny fraction seem to be standing up to the Islamic threat with definitive action and presence in the media. 

The writer ignores the centre piece of this blog ... we agree, radical Islam needs to be counteracted; however, not with inflammatory rhetoric, but with arguments, education and discourse ... and that is what Professor Dajani and his Wasatia movement are all about.

The issue needs to be dealt with by ... standing up to the Islamic threat ... that is what Professor Dajani and his Wasatia movement are all about. 

The issue needs to be brought into the open with definitive action and presence in the media ... that is what Prof. Dajani and his Wasatia movement are all about. 

This blog has one aim: To educate about  (I continue to deny that there is any)  credible “moderate muslim” reaction ... that is what Professor Dajani and his Wasatia movement are all about; if Professor Dajani is not deemed credible, then the term 'credible' needs to be redefined.

To counter  the lack of a “moderate muslim response” and the aims of radical Islam  ... that is what Prof. Dajani and his Wasatia movement are all about. 


The point of my blog is this: With what we do we want to counteract Islamism (radical Islam), we (myself as well as moderate Muslims) do so by: 

a) supporting the voices that condemn radical Islam

b) encouraging dialogue and education, and thus counter radicalisation

I ask again: What would the alternative  definitive action  be? It has been suggested before to  stop muslim immigration (blog 506) ... my response then (and now): 

There is one sure way to radicalise Muslims in Australia who have no prior intention of engaging in terrorism:  Attempt to stop Muslim immigration. 

Islam is part of our multi-cultural society here in Australia ... that is a fact, we have to deal with it. To limit Muslim immigration may be an option in a mono-culture, such as Holland (it remains to be seen how that effort will play out). However, radical Islamism is encouraged - indeed it feeds on - moderate Islam being undermined and denigrated.

We have to ask ourselves one question: With what we do, is radicalism and extremism encouraged or counteracted?

At one point the writer does indeed come to the crux of the matter,  It is not about the Koran or even Islam itself  ... that is the truth. Once more, with a final word, Professor Dajani (in response to this exchange):

"The enemy among us is not the Christian, not the Jew, not the Muslim, not the secular ... but the radical and extremist."

Thank you, Mohammed … that is a worthy summary. I have but a small readership; nevertheless, I am pleased to have been able to bring your efforts to their attention … may your work take root in the hearts of the radical and extremist.



At least Dajani’s heart is in the right place …

Continuing Muslim immigration when reality tells us there are no current answers and no effective strategy in place is not a sensible approach.

With all due respect, I disagree with you. There are current answers and effective strategies … they are outlined in the manifesto of the Wasatia movement. 


I truly believe one ineffective strategy would be to try and curb Muslim immigration (next to continuously denigrating Islam) … it likely would be a disaster, since it could well motivate those young Muslims who are sitting on the fence right now, not knowing which way to turn - conciliation or radicalisation? - and send them off in the wrong direction; indeed, the only effective strategy is to help with educating young Muslims and preventing them from being radicalised. Remember also, we are a multicultural society, not a monoculture. Professor Dajani is on the right track … he is part of the solution. I am afraid attempting to curb Muslim immigration would contribute to the problem.


Did you read up on the good professor? Did you read his c.v.? He was ostracised from Palestine for taking students to a Holocaust memorial in Germany … in order to educate them about the plight of the Jews. I have to say, I don’t know of anyone who works as hard as he does - who in fact has sacrificed as much as he has - for conciliation and a resolution to the problem of moderate Muslims turning Islamist radicals. Frankly, his ideas are born out of the burning pain about Islamists' radicalism and extremism. We all … you, me and him, want the same thing. I believe people like him - a movement like his - deserve our support.


The full original feedback email:

The views expressed in this blog seem to be divorced from everyday reality and avoid identifying the problem by taking an intellectual approach based around interpretations of Islam - about which we could all pontificate until the world is in ashes.

As it is glaringly apparent, of the 1.5 billion muslims in the world, only a tiny, tiny fraction seem to be standing up to the Islamic threat with definitive action and presence in the media.  Those that do risk savage retaliation or death (e.g. Charlie Hebdo etc.).  This is why I continue to deny that there is any credible “moderate muslim” reaction to the death and destruction brought about by this fascist totalitarian movement which has used a religion as its defence for its unspeakable brutality against Christians, Jews, homosexuals, women and even other muslims.  Continuing to examine in fine detail passages in the Koran is like pissing in the wind.  It is not about the Koran or even Islam itself - at its root it is about sheer totalitarian power and control and the removal of democracy, liberty and human rights for anybody who does not submit.  

The Left need to stop pretending to be pseudo-intellectual about this issue and face some hard facts about radical Islam, the obvious lack of a “moderate muslim response” and the ultimate aims of radical Islam.