the word Muslim is heavily politicised and racialized. Calling yourself a Muslim in a post 9/11 world, makes life difficult to say the least. Academics, Governments, Institutions, Think Tanks as well as the general non-Muslim public all give the label a meaning, which serves their particular interests.
Such as the terms “moderate Muslim”, “good Muslim” or “modern Muslim”, describing those who fit a certain profile, everyone who then doesn’t conform is a “bad Muslim” or a “puritanical extremist”. This phraseology is colonial in nature it has been used by orientalist scholars to describe those who collaborated with colonial rule, it’s been used in describing Dr. Martin Luther King as the good, peaceful black activist and Malcolm X as the bad, radical black activist.
This classical form of divide and conquer is used to play us off against each other. Muslims that engage in that narrative of good vs. bad should remember that people who hate you don’t care about what you call yourself, in the words of Pamela Geller: “What’s the difference? Today’s moderate is tomorrow’s mass murderer.”
Part of that same good vs. bad narrative is also that the solution to extremism is following a certain branch of Islam. The UK government plays on this with its PREVENT Agenda funding those Muslim organisations that fits their profile to further their idea of what a good Muslim looks like and who one is and who isn’t. The moniker “moderate Muslim” also carries the implication that the moderate Muslim isn’t a real Muslim that those who read the scriptures and really believe in all of what it says are necessarily radical extremists. We don’t talk about moderate Christians, moderate Hindus or Buddhists for example in our day to day conversations.
Moderation however is indeed an important factor in the religion, but we need to get rid of the moderate/extreme Muslim binary in our language to categorise people who seemingly fit a certain profile. I have met people of all kinds of sects, religions and people of no religion who display arrogance and close mindedness and we see, hear and read of mankind as a whole committing violence and atrocities. We see violence everywhere and from everyone, sometimes for seemingly good reasons, sometimes for bad, sometimes for banal reasons and sometimes for very complex reasons that are often just glossed over in the mainstream media.
Life is a crucible. I do believe that people are inherently good, that we are born on the Fitrah, the God given natural inclination to do and be good. It is our environment, our experiences and trials in life, that changes the way we act. We do however have the capacity as humans to choose what we do. As Muslims we believe that this life is a test, a test of how we respond to the trials and tribulations we are faced with and what choices we take and that is where moderation comes into play.