Muslims continue insisting that one of the West’s favorite dichotomies—radical vs moderate Islam—is a myth.
A Muslim cleric recently devoted an entire sermon making this point. Uploaded onto YouTube on Oct. 16, 2022, Sheikh Yunus Kathradas, a Canadian imam, made several assertions (in both Arabic and English) that contradict what every person living in the West has been repeatedly told since September 11, 2001—that the true face of Islam is “moderate” and upholds the same values prized by the West; whereas those who distort and/or selfishly seek to exploit Islam are “radical” and do not represent Islam.
Throughout his sermon, Sheikh Kathradas repeatedly emphasized that the moderate/radical dichotomy is an outrageous fiction made up and employed by Islam’s enemies (the West) as well as ignorant or hypocritical Muslims.
He also correctly defined Islam as submission to Allah, and the enforcement and upholding of his rules—as enshrined in sharia—which tend to be black and white, and, therefore, afford little wiggle room for moderate or radical “interpretations.”
The sheikh cited jihad as an example: “Allah in the Koran commands that jihad be established, and the prophet Muhammad commands that jihad be established.” Period: waging jihad is, therefore, neither a radical nor moderate endeavor; it is merely the submission to and upholding of the commandments of Allah.
In this context, and as Kathradas stressed, anyone who accuses any part of Islam—or accuses those Muslims who sincerely implement it—of being “radical,” is ultimately accusing Allah himself of being “radical.”
Kathradas is, of course, hardly the first Muslim to argue against the much cherished concept of moderate Islam. In late 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan famously said, “Islam cannot be either ‘moderate’ or ‘not moderate.’ Islam can only be one thing”—that is, Islam can only be what it teaches, that and nothing more or less.
What, then, are these teachings that are not open to debate—that are not open to being “moderated” or “radicalized”?
An Arabic-language article published in 2011 offers perspective. Titled (in translation) “The Truth about the Moderate Muslim as Seen by the West and its Muslim Followers,” its author, Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim Khadr, begins predictably enough:
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.
Among the more important distinctions made in Khadr’s article are the following (translated verbatim). Keep in mind that “radicals” here means “true Muslims,” whereas “moderates” means “false Muslims”:
- 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 blessings 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 do not.
- Radicals oppose democracy; moderates accept it.
- Radicals see the people of the book [Jews and Christians] as dhimmis [second-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’s moderates support it.
- Radicals oppose secularism; moderates support it.
The list is much longer, and includes: that moderates believe religion has no role in public life, 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—Khadr marvels 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 and correct Islamic views.
If true—and disturbing polls certainly lend credence to Khadr’s assertions—the West may need to, but likely will not, rethink one of its most cherished ideas: that true Islam is moderate, and only a few “radicals” distort it.