Walid J. Abdullah: Religious Conservatism Does Not Equate Extremism

Do not conflate religious conservatism with extremism.

As is always the case, once a terrorist attack occurs (which again seems to be the exclusive domain of Muslims, as the media has shown from its reluctance to use the word ‘terrorist’ to describe the murderer of Jo Cox), experts rush to dissect what is wrong with Islam.

Almost inevitably, there will be a group of analysts who suggest that Islam itself is the problem, and that Islam needs a ‘reformation’. They would then proceed to conflate expressions of religious conservatism with extremism.

Which is not only mistaken, in my opinion, but extremely dangerous. Suddenly, conservative Muslims are viewed with much suspicion. How many times have we heard – whether in jest or otherwise – people making remarks such as ‘eh why your beard so long? Like terrorist/osama/al-qaeda/isis.’

What these people do is essentially equate conservatism with extremism.

Personally, i do shake hands with members of the opposite gender, i do wish non-Muslims on their festive occasions, and so on, but i know many Muslims who do not, but utterly despise extremism and extremists.

And if we start saying that conservative expressions are signs of extremism, as was recently done when it was suggested that not wishing ‘Merry Christmas’ was a step toward/an indication of extremism, where do we draw the line? What about those who do not shake hands with those of the opposite gender? What about someone who dons the hijab? Or someone who only eats halal? Or someone with a beard?

We must be more careful in using terms such as ‘moderate Muslim’, ‘extremist’, ‘radical’ inter alia, as words do have meanings, and they may shape perceptions. Otherwise, we may end up creating unnecessary frontiers in the fight against extremism.


Source: Walid J. Abdullah

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