Guardian: Can we drop the term ‘moderate Muslim’? It’s meaningless

Can I assume these men are…what word is acceptable?

I first started calling myself a “moderate Muslim” in 1989 in the aftermath of the Salman Rushdie affair…

…The claim that most Muslims are moderate is rarely challenged, which is why I have spent the last month travelling around the country talking to ordinary Muslims about the word. I anticipated disagreement on what defined moderate; what I did not expect was universal hostility to the very phrase and yet everywhere I went the message was the same: don’t call us moderate…

…The men and women I met told me they found it infuriating that they could be devout in their practice of their religion but they would only be considered “moderate” Muslims – since moderate was often taken to mean not hugely observant…

…This is about more than politeness and semantics. The language matters because if ordinary Muslims feel they are being divided into camps, into “good” (moderates) and “bad” (non-moderates) then any statements made by politicians will be heard with great scepticism, especially if for many Muslims “moderate” has come somehow to mean more secular.

The other danger is that if politicians merely assume that most Muslims have views that are moderate they may be blinding themselves to the scale of the challenge they face. A recent BBC survey of 1,000 British Muslims revealed that while 95% said they felt a loyalty to Britain and the vast majority had no sympathy for the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, 27% did have some sympathy for the motivations behind the Paris attacks and 45% said clerics preaching violence against the west could be justified as being in touch with mainstream Muslim opinion…

…But if by being moderate we mean believing in freedom of expression and an acceptance of equality in gender and sexuality, it is by no means certain that the majority of Muslims are moderate, as the word is commonly used. One young student in Leicester told me that unlike many of his fellow Muslims he would shake a woman’s hand. He still believed in gender segregation at public events but his stance on handshaking meant he defined himself as a moderate…

…In trying to encourage more Muslims towards modernity the mistake is to assume that moderation equates to liberalism. The implication in the term “moderate Muslim” is someone who is not especially devout. But being devout is not antithetical to being moderate.

To assume most Muslims are moderate is to imagine that progress is inevitable but if we want the next generation of Muslims to have values we associate with being moderate, we need to be prepared to make an argument for a progressive Islam. That is not possible if politicians employ terms many Muslims find alienating…


Seems we cannot win: everything about Islam has become so touchy that almost anything is enough to set someone off.

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  • Waffle

    They must be going crazy with the revisions, additions and overtime over at the OED.

  • Chatillon

    I actually agree with the author of the piece.

    I prefer the term “pre-violent Muslim” as opposed to “moderate” Muslim.

  • Exile1981

    Ah so most muslims are not moderate, they want to actively kill infidels not just fund the killing of them. Got it.

  • The Islamic problem is quite simple. It is not PC.

    Islamic theology teaches Muslims to hate non-Muslims. It also teaches the most devout Muslims to kill anyone who criticizes, tries to change or quits Islam.

    Reform Islam or else expect continuation of the same.

    • Frau Katze

      Exactly.

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      Christians are told they have free will.
      They have to choose their God.
      And the laws of the Christian universe are constant and unchanging since creation.
      Christianity makes science possible.
      Instead of witchcraft and alchemy.

  • occupant 9

    Muslims carry Islam. Some carry heavier loads of it, but others do their share, one hijab or another. Islam has no moderation in its texts; it is zero-sum. Muslim prayer, is to prey; to ask their Allah for actual victory, not metaphorical victory, but true oppression and humiliation of the kafir (us). They do this five times a day.

    To suggest “we” can alienate Muslims is to be given a shot of taqiyya; Islamic texts insist on alienating us. By being non-Muslims, we “alienate” Muslims. By pushing back in the slightest way, we “offend” their clusterf*cked notion of supremacy, of being “the best of people.”

    The Nazis thought they were superior to all others too and made great friends with Islam because they had similar ideals and the exact same enemy … and now we have a multitude of Muslims living amongst us, unsurprisingly, alienated but not without a left hijab to the chin of our culture and tradition.

    We are being played and that’s at the heart of Islam … to the extent Islam has a heart.

  • Justin St.Denis

    I think it is time to completely ignore muslim community feelings and focus our attention entirely on preventing islamic terrorism. We cannot succeed in the latter if we keep worrying about the former. Muslim feelings be damned. We don’t give a shit about your feelings, but we do really care about your terrorism. Got that? Once the terrorism thing is in hand, maybe then we can talk about your feelings. And our feelings. Got it, Achmed? Great! Now, fetch me that beer and a ham sandwich and make it snappy.

  • Alain

    Trying to classify Muslims as moderate, extremist or whatever is a total waste of time. The real issue is that Islam is not in the least a moderate cult or ideology; it is every bit as radical as communism or nazism. Among its followers/members are those who only follow certain tenets or dictates while others follow or attempt to follow all or at least the majority of them. This is why it is Islam itself which is the problem as it now exists, and trying to discifer to what extent its members follow and practise it is a total waste of time.