Why ‘Moderate Muslim’ Has Become An Offensive Phrase


My conversation with Haroon Moghul went beyond his book and biography. (You can read part one here.) Here are his thoughts on several key issues:

On the criticism that American Muslim leaders are reticent to criticize Muslim terrorists:

“Every mainstream Muslim American organization has condemned terrorism so often that many community members protest, asserting that such condemnations make us sound as if we are somehow responsible for these terrorist acts. One of the debates in our community is whether to apologize for actions in your religion’s name when you have nothing to do with them.

“Among the reasons the criticism is not heard sufficiently is that our community lacks the sophistication and the financial resources to project its voice into the mainstream public sphere. Another is that the mainstream media considers Muslim leaders condemning terrorism a non-story.

“In truth, the phrase ‘moderate Muslim’ has become offensive, suggesting that extremists are the norm, and the mainstream become the outliers”

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

“One area where more can be done in a positive way is improving relationships between Jewish and Israeli Palestinians living within the 1967 borders. Greater engagement and empowerment of Palestinian Christians and Muslims could have a real impact on how Israel is seen in the region.

But the larger problem has less to do with Israel and more with the governments in the region whose leadership has been extremely disappointing. They are consumed with sectarian and ethnic conflict, internally and externally.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one of many in the region, but it’s important that the parties address it themselves. A solution to the occupation would strengthen Israel’s borders, which are being threatened by extremist groups.

“I’d like to see elections take place among the Palestinians. You can’t get anywhere if the government is seen as unresponsive. What’s needed is a government with a popular mandate.”

On President Trump:

“My worst fear was that Trump would be authoritarian, but what is happening is actually the opposite. He’s not a strong leader, he’s remarkably weak, fundamentally in over his head. That is causing the state to break down, which is worrisome on many levels.

“Minorities look to the federal government to protect them — on civil rights, immigrant rights, etc. But I’m more worried as an American that the White House is no longer dealing with problems that only a government can address.”