Monday, April 23, 2007

Moderate Muslims
Mike Ghouse, April 23, 2007

The words change in their meaning and context over a period of time, either they shrink in scope or become universal. The word Moderate is talked about quite extensively these days, especially in reference to Muslims. Who is a moderate Muslim?

In our life time, we have witnessed dramatic changes in understanding the words and how the meaning has changed in scope. The word Liberal is considered open minded around the world, where as in America the conservatives have reduced it to a negative term. John F. Kennedy challenged it , "But if by a 'Liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a 'Liberal,' then I'm proud to say I'm a 'Liberal.' " The neo-cons use the world "Liberal" as though it is evil. Oddly the Liberals are not as offensive to denounce the trickery played by the likes of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Beck and others.

Don Feder in USA today claims that, "A universe that isn't God-centered becomes ego-centered" Belief or non-belief in God does not make a big dent in one becoming an egomaniac. Morality is common social values internalized, some derive from religion, as it is a source, but morality does not necessarily hinge on being God-centric. For years, an Atheist was meant an immoral person, and it is all going to change. Morality is derived from religion but is not religion- dependent.

The tragic 9/11 was a wake up call to Muslims around the world. They felt a sense of betrayal as Jihad, a noble and comprehensive concept of struggle, was resorted to commit violence against innocent people, where Islam, even in the battle field does not allow indiscriminate violence. Such violence in the name of Islam can be better understood as abusing the religion as a political tool, just as much as the crusades and inquisitions were political tools using religion to consolidate the hold of rulers over their people.

Jihad is an Arabic word meaning a struggle or an effort in the fulfilling of the commandments of God in order to become a better human being. The war is not holy and there is nothing in the Qur'an to aggressively go after anyone, unless you're defending against an aggression. Islam forbids aggression and suicide.
Prophet Muhammad always talked about the Middle path being the most acceptable way of living, the one that prevents you from going to the extreme liberal or radical view points and then realizing that the middle path is peaceful and brings stability in one's life.

I was teaching Buddhism and incredibly, the ideal of moderation in Islam, is expressed well in Buddha's middle path. When Buddha experimented from self-denial after the princely life of self-indulgence, he figured that the middle path was the way to go, it released him from the extremes and paved the way to freedom, salvation, nirvana, mukti, moksha or Nijaat.

Prophet Muhammad preferred the life style of a person who lived responsibly, responsibility to himself/herself, health, wealth, spirituality, balance, caring forthe family, being the best neighbor one can be and a model citizen to the community and to the world. Once his associates asked him which one of the two would God shower his grace upon -i) the one who prayed all times and ii) the one was drunk but shared his little food with a hungy neighbor. You bet, the answer was ii.
Muslims are given to be moderates and the phrase 'Moderate Muslim' is simply rhetorical, but today, it is necessary to make that distinction, as the media shines their light on a few radicals as representing the religion, the distinction is necessary as the Moderates would represent Islam in practice; coexist in harmony.

Coming to the word "Moderate Muslims", Muqtedar Khan writes, "Muslims in general do not like using the term, understanding it to indicate an individual who has politically sold out to the "other" side. In some internal intellectual debates, the term moderate Muslim is used pejoratively to indicate a Muslim who is more secular and less Islamic than the norm."

Asma Khalid writes in Christian Science Monitor "The term moderate Muslim is actually a redundancy. In the Islamic tradition, the concept of the "middle way" is central. Muslims believe that Islam is a path of intrinsic moderation, wasatiyya."

In an article Civil Liberties and Uncivil Super-Patriotism: The Struggle between the Two Americas, Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq explains why the media and the government in America have made it so difficult for themselves to find moderate Muslims.

Khan, Khalid and Farooq are right. Muslims do resist the classification of any kind, and moderation is the given standard of Islam. When Muslims join in to pray at the largest annual Muslim congregational prayer on the day of Hajj, all distinctions of wealth, knowledge, age, gender, race, ethnicity and culture simply fade. There is no distinction between Shia or Sunni or any other sub-group, they may fold their hand on their chest or at the naval, but pray they do with no one looking at the other nor anyone is judgmental about others.

However, given the current meaning ascribed to the word Moderate in all faith traditions, it is necessary to identify a meaning with the word.

Liberal Muslims can be defined as those who see a lot of flexibility in their faith; they find freedom in following their faith and making their own rules in some aspect of life as they go forward. Religion is a private matter to them; some of them don't see the need for an outward expression. The conservative Muslims on the other hand (some of them are fundamentalists or orthodox Muslims) will remain loyal to the literal meaning of the words, they don't see the need for any flexibility in following their faith as they understand it. Together these two groups constitute – i.e., strict conservatives and liberals - less than 5% of the Muslim population. That may be the ratio in all groups.

Moderate Muslims do not wear religion on their sleeve; religion is a personal matter between them and the creator. Religion is not a barrier to them and they get along with all people. In practicing their faith they see some flexibility as well as accept some rigidity. They can also be called average Muslims, like the average Joes or Abdul's. When you are with them, you get the idea that they are Muslims, but it is not a neon sign.

Ironically the moderates of any faith do not wish to be labeled. So is the case with Moderate Muslims. However, we cannot escape being identified as Moderate Muslims and I am one.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio, discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He founded the World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: "good for Muslims and good for the world." His personal Website is and his articles can be found on the Websites mentioned above and in his Blogs: and . He can be reached at . Mike lives in Carrollton with his family and has been a Dallasite since 1980.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.