Peace dove statue
In his 1927 essay (published in Young India), Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “I do regard Islam to be a religion of peace in the same sense as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are.” In 1930, the Indian scholar Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi published his book The Religion of Peace. The book’s introduction begins with this declaration: “Islam is a religion of peace. Peace cannot exist without goodwill and toleration.” But the notion of Islam being a religion of peace did not gain currency in the West, and after India’s violent partition in 1947, this notion lost its appeal among Indiana.
In the 1970s, the Islamic countries of the Middle East, flush with petroleum revenues, started investing in a project for rebranding Islam as the world’s only “religion of peace.” The irony is that these Middle Eastern countries were simultaneously spearheading global movements which aimed to establish Islamic supremacy in non-Islamic countries.
Initially, the use of the phrase “religion of peace” for Islam was confined to the Islamic scholars, but after 9/11, this phrase was adopted by the leftist intellectuals and journalists in America and Western Europe—they started a worldwide campaign to ignore the violence being orchestrated by the Islamic movements and depict Islam as a religion of peace. Once this phrase was adopted by the Western leftists, it became popular in India. Most Indian intellectuals, who tend to blindly ape the intellectual trends of the West, started calling Islam a religion of peace.
By 2005, the phrase “religion of peace” had become synonymous with Islam in most democratic countries. This was despite the fact that 90 percent of the wars, riots, and insurgencies from 1970 onwards were being fueled by Islamic grievances. The terrorism that the world has experienced after 1990 was mostly motivated by Islamic movements. In the twenty-first century, the countries with significant Islamic populations have a high level of authoritarianism (most are ruled by dictators), low levels of socioeconomic development, and are mired in political and religious violence.