Why We Should Ditch The Phrase “Moderate Muslims”


“Moderate Muslims” is a descriptor we’re all familiar with. Media commentators, politicians, and even Muslim leaders use it to describe the Muslims we don’t hear about every day in the news: the non-terrorist, non-suicide bombing ordinary Muslims throughout the world.

In a June 25, 2014 piece in the New Republic, our own Nathan Lean takes issue with this phrase’s frequent usage. He writes:

The idea of a ‘moderate Islam’ or ‘moderate Muslim’ is intellectually lazy because it carves the world up into two camps: the “good” Muslims and the “bad” ones. Until proven good, or moderate, all Muslims are perceived as ‘bad,’ or potentially extreme.

In the minds of Zuhdi Jasser, Brigitte Gabriel, and other anti-Muslim activists who shape our national narratives about Muslims far more than many realize, being a ‘devout’ Muslim means being potentially ‘dangerous.’  For them,

…“moderately” subscribing to the teachings of the Quran is OK, but should they cross over into the world of daily prayers, Friday afternoons at the mosque, and, God forbid, Ramadan, they’re suddenly flirting with extremism. That way of thinking is predicated on the unfounded notion that pious religious orthodoxy necessarily entails Muslims behaving badly. It also implies that religious “moderation” involves swallowing up one particular political narrative.

Lean says this conflation of ‘devout’ and ‘dangerous’ — an assumption also underlies many of the US government’s Muslim surveillance and anti-“radicalization” programs — is “nonsense.” He calls on Americans to be more discerning in our choice of language when we talk about Muslims and violence committed in Islam’s name.

Read the rest of Lean’s article in the New Republic, where also shows how many prominent voices like Sam Harris and Pamela Geller tend to blur the lines of “moderate” and “radical” in an attempt to smear all those of the Muslim faith.

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