"Islam" Means Peace

Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today

by Amitabh Pal


From the Crusades to September 11th, the prevalent notion among non-Muslims is that Islam was largely spread by the sword and continues to be defined by violence. In fact, that belief is a distortion of the religion's tradition, of its history, and of the actions and beliefs of countless Muslims around the globe today.

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Cover image for "Islam" Means Peace

March 2011


Pages 276
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Religion/General

This decisive account of the role of nonviolence in Islam and Muslim societies, both historically and in current times, chronicles an often-obscured but longstanding pacifist tradition.

"Islam" Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today provides a rebuttal to general misperceptions about the religion by documenting its rich tradition of nonviolence. To that end, the book examines the sources of Islam—the Qur'an, the main religious text of Islam, and the Hadith, the deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. It contests the prevalent notion that Islam is built on violence in part by illuminating the role of the tolerant, mystical tradition of Sufism in Islam, while at the same time examining the misunderstood place of jihad in the religion.

The book is not, however, a historical or theological treatise. Rather, it focuses on the tradition of nonviolence in modern Muslim societies. By spotlighting recent peaceful protest movements in Muslim communities, the book underscores the truly global and multicultural nature of the Islamic tradition of nonviolence. The findings here will be invaluable for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, revealing an alternative tradition both can embrace.


  • Voices of leading nonviolence activists, such as Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi, Mubarak Awad, Gene Sharp, and rock star Salman Ahmad, that make the history of nonviolent activism immediate and up to date
  • A bibliography listing a wide array of source materials


  • Highlights the important role of nonviolence in Islam and the myriad sources of inspiration for nonviolence available in Muslim holy literature, countering the pervasive stereotype of Islam as a violent religion
  • Emphasizes how intrinsic Sufism—the mystical, peaceful branch of Islam—is to the religion and reveals a different history of Islam where the religion was spread peacefully, often by Sufi mystic orders
  • Presents an alternative, much less violent interpretation of jihad
  • Discusses the war in Kosovo and the history of nonviolent action in Pakistan and Palestine/Israel, among others, in ways that will expand the understanding of the conflicts and may suggest avenues to potential solutions
Author Info

Amitabh Pal is managing editor of The Progressive magazine, founded in 1909, and coeditor of The Progressive Media Project, an op-ed service in Madison, WI. He has interviewed several eminent personalities for the magazine, including Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Dalai Lama, and Joseph Stiglitz. His work has been included in school and college textbooks, and he has appeared on C-SPAN and on radio stations throughout the country. Pal holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master's degree in political science, specializing in international relations and comparative relations, from North Carolina State University.



"By preparing the important book "Islam" Means Peace, Amitabh Pal has made an important contribution to correcting widespread misconceptions of Islam and Muslims. That task has been made difficult by the deeds of those Muslims who commit major violence in the name of their religion. Amitabh Pal has helped to call attention to the fact that many Muslims, to the contrary, understand Islam to require peaceful behavior. Muslims in important nonviolent struggles have served as brave and disciplined campaigners."
—Gene Sharp, Senior Scholar, Albert Einstein Institution, Boston, MA

"Pal's fresh, compelling book is a must-read. He brings us—East and West —closer together by humanizing Islam, and in so doing he shatters media's pervasive and damaging myths about Muslims."
—Dr. Jack G. Shaheen, Distinguished Visiting Scholar, New York University; Author of Guilty: Hollywood's Verdict on Arabs after 9/11

"With so many ugly stereotypes of the Islamic tradition and its adherents confusing so many in the West, Amitabh Pal has done a great service in writing a powerful and readable overview of the real Islam. Not only does Pal make a convincing case regarding the strong foundations of nonviolence in Islam in theory, he provides many examples of the application of nonviolence in practice, particularly the rich history of strategic nonviolent action campaigns by Muslims in support of self-determination, human rights and democracy."—Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, University of San Francisco; Editor, Nonviolent Social Movements: A Geographical Perspective

"Finally, the book so many of us have been waiting for! With a keen eye for history and politics, Amitabh Pal not only demolishes the stereotype that Islam is an inherently violent religion but also demonstrates Islam’s emphatic traditions of coexistence, compassion, and social justice. Most importantly, this is a book for anyone seeking the path of nonviolence—Muslim and non-Muslim alike."

—Moustafa Bayoumi, Author of How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America

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