'Radical' vs. 'Moderate' Islam: A Muslim View

Why “radical” is deemed good and “moderate” bad.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

After his recent electoral victory, it emerged that Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, had described moderate Muslim groups as “Uncle Toms”—a notorious racial slur used against blacks perceived to be subservient to whites, or, in this context, Muslims who embrace “moderate Islam” as a way of being subservient to the West.

One of Iran’s highest clerics apparently shares the same convictions.  After asserting that “revolutionary Islam is the same as pure Muhammadan Islam,” Ayatollah Tabatabaeinejad recently declared:

Some say our Islam is not revolutionary Islam, but we must say to them that non-revolutionary Islam is the same as American Islam. Islam commands us to be firm against the enemies and be kind and compassionate toward each other and not be afraid of anything….

According to AB News Agency, “Ayatollah Tabatabaeinejad stated that revolutionary Islam is this same Islam. It is the Islam that is within us that can create changes. The warriors realized that Islam is not just prayers and fasting, but rather they stood against the enemies in support of Islam.”

How many Muslims share these convictions, one from a Sunni living (and now governing) in London, the other from a Shia living and governing in the Middle East?

An Arabic language article offers perspective.  Titled (in translation) “The Truth about the Moderate Muslim as Seen by the West and its Muslim Followers,” it is authored by Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim Khadr in 2011.

According to the findings of this article,

Islamic researchers are agreed that what the West and its followers call “moderate Islam” and “moderate Muslims” is simply a slur against Islam and Muslims, a distortion of Islam, a rift among Muslims, a spark to ignite war among them.  They also see that the division of Islam into “moderate Islam” and “radical Islam” has no basis in Islam—neither in its doctrines and rulings, nor in its understandings or reality.

Khadr goes on to note the many ways that moderates and radicals differ.  For instance, radicals (“true Muslims”) aid and support fellow Muslims, especially those committed to jihad, whereas moderates (“false Muslims”) ally with and help Western nations.

This sounds similar to Ayatollah Tabatabaeinejad’s assertion that “non-revolutionary Islam is the same as American Islam. Islam commands us to be firm against the enemies [“infidels”] and be kind and compassionate toward each other.”

Among the more important distinctions made in Khadr’s article are the following (translated verbatim):

  • Radicals want the caliphate to return; moderates reject the caliphate.
  • Radicals want to apply Sharia (Islamic law); moderates reject the application of Sharia.
  • Radicals reject the idea of renewal and reform, seeing it as a way to conform Islam to Western culture; moderates accept it.
  • Radicals accept the duty of waging jihad in the path of Allah; moderates reject it.
  • Radicals reject any criticism whatsoever of Islam; moderates welcome it on the basis of freedom of speech.
  • Radicals accept those laws that punish whoever insults or leaves the religion [apostates]; moderates recoil from these laws.
  • Radicals respond to any insult against Islam or the prophet Muhammad—peace and blessing upon him—with great violence and anger; moderates respond calmly and peacefully on the basis of freedom of expression.
  • Radicals respect and reverence every deed and every word of the prophet—peace be upon him—in the hadith; moderates don’t.
  • Radicals oppose democracy; moderates accept it.
  • Radicals see the people of the book [Jews and Christians] as dhimmis [third class “citizens”]; moderates oppose this.
  • Radicals reject the idea that non-Muslim minorities should have equality or authority over Muslims; moderates accept it.
  • Radicals reject the idea that men and women are equal; moderates accept it, according to Western views.
  • Radicals oppose the idea of religious freedom and apostasy from Islam; moderates agree to it.
  • Radicals desire to see Islam reign supreme; moderates oppose this.
  • Radicals place the Koran over the constitution; moderates reject this.
  • Radicals reject the idea of religious equality because Allah’s true religion is Islam; moderates accept it.
  • Radicals embrace the wearing of hijabs and niqabs; moderates reject it.
  • Radicals accept killing young girls that commit adultery or otherwise besmirch their family’s honor; moderates reject this.
  • Radicals reject the status of women today and think it should be like the status of women in the time of the prophet; moderates reject that women should be as in the time of the prophet.
  • Radicals vehemently reject that women should have the freedom to choose partners; moderates accept that she can choose a boyfriend without marriage.
  • Radicals agree to clitorectimis; moderates reject it.
  • Radicals reject the so-called war on terror and see it as a war on Islam; moderates accept it.
  • Radicals support jihadi groups; moderates reject them.
  • Radicals reject the terms Islamic terrorism or Islamic fascism; moderates accept them.
  • Radicals reject universal human rights, including the right to be homosexual; moderates accept it.
  • Radicals reject the idea of allying with the West’ moderates support it.
  • Radicals oppose secularism; moderates support it.

Khadr makes other charges outside of his chart, including that moderates believe religion has no role in public life, that it must be practiced in private, while radicals want it to govern society; that moderates rely on rationalism, while radicals take the text of the Koran and hadith literally; that the first place of loyalty for moderates is the state, irrespective of religion—marveling that the moderate “finds hatred for non-Muslims as unacceptable”—whereas the radical’s loyalty  is to Islam, a reference to the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity.

Khadr’s conclusion is that, to most Muslims, “moderate Muslims” are those Muslims who do not oppose but rather aid the West and its way of life, whereas everything “radicals” accept is based on traditional Islamic views.

If true—and disturbing polls certainly lend credence to Khadr’s findings—the West may need to rethink one of its main means of countering radical Islam: moderate Muslims and moderate Islam.