Let’s stop using the phrase “moderate Muslim.”

49566bd6-84d3-4909-bde0-5ad76001d815And here’s why, from Nathan Lean, at The Republic:

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” Muslims, as Columbia University professor Mahmood Mamdani has noted. (Saba Ahmed herself used the word “bad” in her remarks at the Heritage panel.) Until proven good, or in this case “moderate,” all Muslims are perceived as “bad,” or potentially extreme. We certainly don’t spend our time searching out “moderate” Christians or Jews, but rather reckon that the Westboro Baptists, Jewish Defense League, and others are aberrations. And sure, Muslims give us plenty of bad examples, but it’s our own fault if we allow those examples to constipate our ability to perform basic logic.


7 responses to “Let’s stop using the phrase “moderate Muslim.”

  1. I’m not going to let Lean or anybody else shove me into a politically correct corner in order to promote the manufacture of a false consciousness: the possibility of a utopian “peaceful and equitable place in our society” that can never actually exist as long as politicians, preachers, reactionaries, extremists and homicidal maniacs continue to exploit religion for nefarious purposes. Such exploitation is not aberration. It is Business As Usual in the marketplace of Religion™. And has been for thousands of years.

    It is intellectually dishonest to ignore the fact that “pious religious orthodoxy” creates human carnage as easily as not, and that fact can somehow be removed from a “precious diversity within religious traditions” through the imposition of an extremely narrow…and bigoted…definition of piety.

    It is equally dishonest to state…

    “We certainly don’t spend our time searching out “moderate” Christians or Jews, but rather reckon that the Westboro Baptists, Jewish Defense League, and others are aberrations.

    …without acknowledging it is predjudice that sustains the popular status of mainstream religions everywhere, but especially in America. That statement also conveniently ignores a significant number…an increasing number… of “We” who are forced to spend a good deal of our time searching out moderation within our theopolitical ideologies that influence every…every…aspect of our daily lives just to be able to navigate social interaction without being metaphorically burned at the stake.

    Lean ignores another crucial fact: We are a nation at war. If you want moderation in the language of ressentiment inherit in that reality…end the damn war.

    • Maybe he’s saying (I’m interjecting here) that for now, during this time of war, let’s drop “moderate” in favor of “Muslim,” which acknowledges that people who kill in the name of Islam are not, in fact, Muslims. I would hold up the same bar for Christians who hate in the name of Christianity. They are not, by any measure, following the rules of their Book, either.

      • That still ignores the fact that within Islam there is a great deal of diversity of thought that cannot…that should not…be ignored. (Ask Obama. Or some journalists. Or Coptic Christians. Women.) It would be like ignoring historical differences between Protestantism and Catholicism…like different books, for instance. Or sociopolitical differences between White evangelical Protestants and Black Evangelical Protestants.

        We cannot relieve a constipation of logic by swallowing shit that makes us even more constipated. It’s simply not possible to stop using judgments like good and bad while continuing to sustain a theopolitical environment that demands everything be judged as good or bad…or somewhere in between…moderate.

        • But how is removing “moderate” swallowed shit? What if we learned more about Islam and its multiple branches (as we purport to understand Christianity) so that we didn’t use the word “moderate” but more accurate descriptors, like “white evangelical,” etc.?

          • Because it removes an accurate descriptor for no other reason than some imagined potential to be offensive. There’s nothing inherently offensive in that term. The possibility of offense is created entirely by a special interest more concerned with indoctrination than education.

            Let’s learn about Islam. Let’s learn all the proper names. That isn’t going to change the fact that within the wealth of diversity that is Islam, there are going to be views, ideas, opinions, proposals, policies, and interpretations that can be judged, even by the most liberal observer, more moderate than extreme. Just like in Christianity. Just like in Judaism. Just like in Buddhism. If we cannot use “moderate” to describe those things, then we cannot use “extreme.” It robs us of perspective.

            Pluralism demands difference be recognized.

            • I didn’t see this as trying to be politically correct, but I guess we can differ and still be each other’s best buddies. We agree on learning more about Islam, so that we’re not reduced to (inaccurately) calling some Muslims “good” and some “bad.”

            • The way I see it, the issue is tied to the assumption by some (like Trump and his supporters) that because a person is Muslim, they are a threat and we should fear them. Let’s be honest, there are many Americans who are prejudiced against Muslims and even threaten to harm them for being Muslim. “Moderate Muslim” or “Radical Islam” only feeds the bigotry and the danger to Muslim Americans. I, for one, want to protect them from idiots who wish to harm them for being Muslim. “Moderate Christian” or “Extreme Christian” or any other label of Christian does not carry the same stigma or threat.

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