Got your shalom right here, Portnoy

Our old friend Howard is back to his usual… stuff today:

Did you know that the word islam is a cognate of the Hebrew word shalom, meaning “peace”? Don’t berate yourself if you didn’t, because it isn’t true. This is just the latest fiction perpetrated by would-be Ground Zero imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in an at times touchy-feely op-ed in today’s New York Times.

I’d heard the good Imam’s etymological observation before.  Some might even fault it for being trite, but that’s a point of style, not of personal credibility, and a man seeking to speak to the broadest possible, not necessarily sympathetic audience can be excused for seeking the simplest, least controversial ways to share an idea. Even if the shalom/Islam cognate relationship were only a “just so” story – a “fiction,” to use Howard’s word – I’d hardly be inclined to see re-telling it as a crime against decency.

A Shillum

a shillum (Moroccan peace pipe)

Since none of us can travel back in time and observe the development of the Semitic tongues Hebrew and Arabic, we cannot prove or disprove the etymological supposition in the same way a scientist could prove or disprove a physical law, but the consonant pattern S-L-M in shalom, salaam, and Islam/Muslim seems rather obvious, and, as a rule, close homophonic relationships between words with similar meanings in related languages do not occur by chance:  Even in those cases where origins are traceably separate and distinct, it’s in the nature of language for such usages and meanings to converge anyway, but shalom/salaam/Islam does not appear to be one of those exceptional cases.

For those playing along at home and, like Howard apparently, too busy to do any research of their own, here’s the etymological discussion from the Wikipedia entry on “Shalom”:

This sense of completeness, central to the term shalom could also be confirmed in homophonic terms found in other Semitic languages. The term shelam, of Chaldean origin, seems to mean both peace and restoration. Aramaic derivations of the terms shalom and shalam are said to mean peace, safety, completeness and welfare. The Assyrian term salamu means to be complete, unharmed, paid/atoned. Sulmu, another Assyrian term, means welfare. A closer relation to the idea of shalom as concept and action is seen in the Arabic root salaam. Meaning to be safe, secure, and forgiven, among other things. It also proposes a personal commitment to the concept, action, and transcendence of peace – Salaam is also the root for the terms Muslim and Islam, literally translated, he/she who submits to God and submission to God, respectively.

Howard’s evidence or counterargument against the Imam, Wikipedia, and pretty much anyone:  Howard Portnoy says not so.

Of course, it’s not as though many or most in the anti-9/11 Victory Mega-Mosque Mosque Mosque movement work this way.  In my observation it’s more like 100%.

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8 comments on “Got your shalom right here, Portnoy

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  1. I’m going to make a few points about a very confused/confusing piece by Cliff May in NRO today. His central point:
    “Among the most significant lesson I’ve learned: Terrorism is not the core of the problem. It is merely the weapon of choice for some of the regimes, movements, and ideologies that are waging a war against the U.S. and other democratic societies.”
    Good enough,but a bit of a Truism,it seems to me that to the “Terrorists” the “Means” are the “End”,destroying the enemies of Islam is Destruction =s Terror. “They see their enemies as “infidels” — enemies of Allah who deserve death and would be better off dead.” Making them dead also =s making them dead via Terror.
    Another “cofused” assertion was that we are facing two kinds of “Threat” violent and Non-violent,”There are those — call them “Islamists” — who are not militants. They believe non-violent strategies can more effectively hasten the transition from the rule of law as constructed by men to the rule of law as ordained by Allah, along with the transfer of global dominance from Judeo-Christian and secular societies to “the Muslim world.”
    So Non-Violent “Competition” for Global dominance is now an act of War? What about China,Russia,OPEC,and even the EEC,are we not in competition with them for Global Dominance? Is it now War for others to even challange our self assumed World Leadership,(I guess those currencies that are pushing our currency away from the position as the World’s Primary money,are at war with us?)
    “But if, as has been conservatively estimated, only 7 percent of the world’s Muslims support Jihadism and/or Islamism, that’s more than 80 million people — a formidable force backed by enormous Middle Eastern oil wealth.”
    So(Non-Violent) Islamism is joined with (Violent) Jihadism to make our lives miserable. So what’s the strategy for declaring war on 7% of Islam considering that 90% of that 7% are peaceful activists? Do we target and kill those who peacefully oppose our way of life/our Dominance?

  2. @ Rex Caruthers:
    As observed on another thread, Clifford May may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he usefully exposes, as you point out, some fundamental problems with the revivified rightwing war on terror ideology. Many of them really do appear to believe that we cannot afford to let a tiny minority of Islamists peacefully advocate their worldview – that’s how strong it is! Merely by advocating for Sharia, they can “sabotage” the US of effin A and all of our friends, too! Apparently, that’s how pathetically unattractive and indefensible our values are compared to Islam.

  3. The Communist party in total terms, were a small faction in the population, but we were right not to let them get a foothold in our unions, media, academia, well we tried at that anyways., Having been
    a reporter for the Times in Western Africa in the 70s and 80s, May might just have a tiny inkling of how extremist movements operate
    in various societies.

    Russia currently is a regional rival, but not an idealogical one, a signficant distinction or difference, China similarly more of a competitor. 19 men causes 3,000 death, a fairly small number
    caused many of the casualties predominantly civilian, in Iraq in a short span of years

  4. MC/ China similarly more of a competitor

    Communist China is not an “Idealogical” competitor? Isn’t China selling us the Rope that we will use to hang ourselves?

    Maybe you could help Max out? How do we dtermine who the evil 7%ers are,and once located,do we Drone them out of existence? In other words is this entire chain of logic sustainable without turning us into a nation in which you would feel comfortable supporting?

  5. Regardless of what Tom Friedman says, the Chinese model isn’t really an option, now it threatens the likes of Taiwan, maybe the Spratley
    isles, and their support of the Janjaweed regime, isn’t unhelpful with regards to Iran,

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