Yet what exactly do these terms mean?
Dr. Wafa Sultan, born and raised in the Muslim culture of Syria, who now resides in the US, and is a strong advocate of women’s rights, recently provided some interesting insight on this topic during an interview. What immediately caught my attention was her comment that the term “radical” doesn’t exist in the Muslim world.
No “radicals?” What is she talking about?
“This is a term invented by the West,” according to Dr. Sultan. She also indicated those who suggest Islam has been “hijacked by radicals” were off base. Those whom the West calls “radicals” are quite simply the ones who are adherents to the faith.
Dr. Sultan explained that while there no “radicals” in the Muslim world, there are “moderates.” However, one needs to take note this has nothing to do with Islam itself.
“Islam is Islam,” she explained. A “moderate” Muslim is an individual who has made a personal choice not to be an adherent to the tenets of Islam. A typical way to describe such a person in the west is “secular.”
However, in the Muslim world a “secular” or “moderate” is considered a non-believer or infidel. Such people are routinely subjected to torture and according to Islamic law should be put to death. Islam is also the only religion that mandates the death of someone who decides to leave the faith.
While Dr. Sultan is saying individual Muslims who dilute their personal commitment to Islam, may be called “moderates,” we should not take that to mean Islam itself is moderate. That would be a critical mistake according to Dr. Sultan. And those typically referred to as “radicals” are not considered radical in the Muslim world itself.
A more accurate way to understand the terms from a Western point of view and Muslim point of view is as follows: “Moderate” translates to “infidel”; while “Radical” translates to adherent or believer. One cannot change the Koran for the sake of their individual convenience. It stands alone and obedience is required. In fact Islam means “submission.”
The views expressed by Dr. Sultan would present a challenge to Dr. Zhudi Jasser, President and Founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Dr. Jasser considers himself to be “devout Muslim.” His organization is attempting to portray Muslims and Islam in a more palatable light. He offers a view of Muslims and Islam that starkly contrasts Dr. Sultan.
For example while speaking with him he told me “we all pray to the same God.” This statement would appear to fly in the face of what Islam itself says. For example the Muslim declaration of belief known as the Shahada says “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger.”
If as Dr. Jasser suggests we all pray to the same God, why doesn’t the Shahada say “there is no god but God?” The Shahada clearly suggests Allah is both distinctive and superior. Yet Dr. Jasser would have Jews, Christians and Muslims praying to the same God. However it doesn’t appear as though Jews and Christians are welcome in Islam according to the Koran, as these quotes indicate:
Allah stamped wretchedness upon the Jews because they killed the prophets and disbelieved Allah's revelations. 2:61
Don't take Jews or Christians for friends. If you do, then Allah will consider you to be one of them. 5:51
Quotes such as these strongly suggest at least two points: Dr. Sultan appears to have an understanding of Islam in its truest sense, while Dr. Jasser, who does seem sincere, appears to try to place a square peg into a round hole.
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