This custom and expression have been used for centuries in this region.
It is easy to let the greeting roll off the tongue glibly but the idea of Salaam warrants some regular reflection.
I came across the following statement about the nature of peace by Oscar Romero, the San Salvadorean leader who spoke out on behalf of the poor, who lifted the veil on abuses of human rights and who was assassinated in 1980 for his countercultural stand.
I have substituted the Arabic word for ‘peace’ to make Romero’s statement speak more directly into our scene here in the Emirates and on the Arabian Peninsula:
Salaam is not the product of terror or fear.
Salaam is not the silence of cemeteries.
Salaam is not the silent result of violent repression.
Salaam is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Salaam is dynamism.
Salaam is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
In it each one has a place in this beautiful family…
Source: Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love, E-Book, 8 January 1978, 42.
As-Salāmu `Alaykum السلام عليكم Peace Be Upon You!
Dr Geoff Pound