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When you enter houses, salute the inmates with a greeting in the name of God, invoke blessings and goodness.

An-Nur, 24:61

Some thoughts

The greeting Muslims offer one another all over the world is “as-salam alaykum” - which means “Peace be with you”. It should remind us that peace is not so much a state that occurs when violence and hatred are absent but in fact it's something we 'bring along', something we can 'offer' to others.

When we are occupied with too many things – earning money, striving for status, trying to take care of everything – it creates stress and unrest. It makes us lose our inner peace. When that happens we have to pause, reflect and remove all the superficial excess. We need to find our emptiness. For when we find that emptiness of detachment, we find our inner peace. This is taught by many religious traditions.

Yet our emptiness should not be devoid of absolutely everything. Total and complete emptiness is indifference and indifference is what makes us capable of violence and killing. When we are so empty that we also lose love, we won’t care about things. And when we don't care about things, we let injustice exist or we become unjust ourselves without minding.

True peace then is not simply a matter of getting rid of all that which inhibits peace. True peace is also something that we actively carry in our hearts and as such bring to others. That is why every contact - with people we know and strangers alike – should carry within it a warm and heartfelt handshake, hug or simple glance of peace. For peace is a piece of the divine you share with others around you.

What Christians can learn

If peace is something you can carry with you, then it's something you can seek and enlarge. If peace is not just the absence of injustice and violence, then it’s something we should actively strife for in society. It makes me wonder why Christian societies never made the promotion of peace an integral part of their policies and politics. These days they often promote democracy and human rights worldwide and internally social justice is a big part of the consideration behind many politics but if after many decades of evolution in these matters, we often don't reach the desired results we might ask ourselves whether we have truly been striving for them.

So it makes me question: there are ministries of economy, health-care, education, justice, foreign affairs and defence but why do we never see a ministry of peace? I readily agree that many people will find the idea a bit naïve or even silly. But if we find such an idea naïve and silly, we perhaps should wonder whether we truly want it. Is peace really a priority? If we would actively strife for peace would a ministry of peace not often be the counter balance to injustices in other departments like economy and foreign affairs?

It is a sad world if we let economy rule our dealings because we find the active search for peace 'too naïve'. Even more so, we in fact become hypocritical because economic and social injustices will never be totally eradicated if peace is not the end-point of most policies. Peace will not simply follow when the injustices are gone. Only when we actively strife for it, will we truly find a way of getting rid of the injustices. 

Questions for Muslims

A lot of the present-day geo-politics certainly bring a whole lot of violence to Muslim communities all over the globe. And yes, Islamophobia is on the rise. But there is of course also a rise of violent rhetoric on the side of the Muslims. I do believe this rhetoric is often a strong counter-reaction to the geo-politics or the situation of Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries. So I can certainly understand where the language of rage and anger often comes from, but one can ask: is that the reaction of a peaceful Muslim? Is that the reaction of any peaceful spiritual person?

I therefore wonder whether Muslims don’t often get themselves trapped in the obvious circle of violence and hate. Isn't religion meant to rise above such action-reaction of 'being anti' and 'reciprocal repression'?

I'm the first to criticize my own society for having lost its ethics of peace. I'm the first to acknowledge that my own government plays its own part in the global situation of war and injustice. But as a spiritual person I cannot help but think that anyone can always choose to break the circle of violence. I'm convinced therefore that Muslims as well can choose to step out of it. Muslims as well can criticize their leaders and ask to leave behind the dualistic rhetoric of being anti this and anti that. They can demand to stop demonizing the West and to stop a battle that in the end only serves the rich who do not want peace.

To let ourselves get drawn into the clash of cultures is to give in to the violence and to abandon the road of peace. On all sides we should stand strong in our peace and refuse to play the game. For it is above all peace that is feared the most by those who create the injustice.