Who are the Muslim Moderates (neo-mods)?


In 1925, shortly after the symbolic destruction of the Ottoman State, Ali Abd Ar-Raaziq, a graduate from the distinguished institution of al-Azhar University of Cairo, issued a controversial religious edict (Fatwa). He claimed that the institution of the Islamic State (Khilafah) is not an integral part of an Islamic society. Many of the readers might be forgiven for assuming that the current infamous Sheikh Tantawi of the same al-Azhar was inspired by the likes of Ali Abd Ar-Raaziq for approving the recent French governments decision to ban the Islamic scarf (Hijab). Prior to this no genuine Islamic scholar endorsed the abolition of the Islamic State or the ban on the Hijab. It would be superficial and hasty to consider such incidents as merely isolated events in history.

The contentious Fatwa of Ali Abd Ar-Raaziq represented the apex of the reformist movements, which began campaigning for reformation since the early eighteenth century or earlier, in order to halt and revive the declining Ottoman State. In contrast, during the early period of the Islamic history, the various movements were primarily confined to debating the various interpretations of the Islamic texts. Not a single scholar or a movement of that period ever advocated the need to reform Islam.

This contrast can be explained by the observation of the eminent Islamic Historian, Ibn Khaldun. He stated that, it is natural for the conquered subjects to look up to their conquerors for solutions to their problems. The defeated will naturally seek to identify the causes of their defeat and often attribute it to their way of life (ideology). Hence, the result is either reformation or abandonment of their ideology. Either route will lead to a level of emulation of the conquerors ideology. Thus, the reformist movements began to imitate the West by approving the imposed European model of nation states and eventually deserted the concept of an unified Islamic State.

In line with historical trend, new reformers best described as the neo-moderates (neo-mods) have arisen, as the Islamic world faces renewed vigorous aggression from the Capitalist-Zionist-Christian axis (neo-colonialists). Palestine, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq are the most recent examples. The neo-mods (reformists) unlike their forerunner are primarily the product of US led initiatives rather than emanating from within the Islamic world with the aspiration to revive the Islamic society. Simila! rly, the neo-colonialists are also distinct from their predecessors. They are primarily focused in colonising the minds rather then just the rich resources. A nation mentally enslaved has very little willpower, and the capability to resist subjugation.

The quest for colonising the minds of the masses has necessitated in pursuing an intellectual battle. The aim is not to eradicate Islam, which failed miserably in the past and proved impossible, but to secularise (marginalise) it in the minds of the Muslim masses. As a consequence eradicate Islam as an ideology for shaping and reunifying the Muslim societies. Simultaneously, the neo-colonialists are advocating “democracy and freedom” as a suitable alternative. Since “democracy and freedom” plays the predominant role in shaping society, which obliges any functioning religion to be secularised, as two people can not occupy the same seat at the same time. Therefore, “democracy and freedom” can easily coexist only with a secularised version of Islam.

Secularised Islam is also conveniently termed as ‘moderate’ Islam. The US government has initiated a drive to manufacture ‘scholars’ and ‘experts’ to promote a ‘moderate’ version of Islam, simultaneously recruiting and promoting those existing ‘moderates’ (neo-mods) that are wittingly or unwittingly campaigning for the same. If the policy fails, the US has already issues threats to enforce “democracy and freedom”. It is certainly a mystery as to how the Western intelligentsia can talk about enforcing “democracy and freedom”, without noticing the inherent contradiction or hypocrisy of “enforcement” with the values of “democracy” and “freedom”.

Apart from the carriers of ‘moderate’ Islam, everyone else simply falls into the radical camp. They are often scorned by labelling them as fundamentalists, fanatics, and extremists. Where as the neo-mods are given a positive image as ‘liberals’, ‘modern’, and ‘free thinking’, regardless of the strength of their argument. The different types of the neo-mods are briefly examined below:

a) Radical Reformists

These radical neo-mods vociferously argue that “democracy and freedom” as defined and practiced by the West are totally compatible with Islam. As stated above, this is only possible under a secularised version of Islam, where Islam would only have any relevance in the individual’s personal sphere of activity at his/her discretion.

How is it that two ideologies emanating from different sources can have the same principles and values, unless it is a monumental historical coincidence! Furthermore, how can they remain distinct but yet have identical principles and values! Of course, that is not the case in reality and hence the Islamic laws are ‘reinterpreted’ when there is an overt conflict with the principles of “democracy and freedom”. The outcome is that the Islamic laws are replaced with secular laws, whilst keeping up the Islamic pretensions. Therefore, it is no surprise that these neo-mods always evaluate Islam by measuring it up to the yardstick of “freedom and democracy”.

If the two ideologies are totally compatible, thus identical in their values and principles, then surely there is no need for divine revelation? Since the Greek Philosophers invented Democracy well before the advent of Islam.

This process of ‘reinterpreting’ Islamic texts in areas that is well established leads to a level of absurdity. As an example, they view polygamy with disdain even though the Prophet (SAW) fully practiced it along with his companions. Who decided in the first place that polygamy is inherently wrong? These self appointed ‘intellectuals’ (neo-mods) do not for once recognise that those in the West attacking polygamy are the most polygamous people around, with their culture of “freedom” placing very few limitations to the sexual practices. Any form of sexual behaviour is acceptable as long as it is not a second wife! If you are accustomed to Jerry Springer, the pretexts is often, “it is because you are not home”, and so I slept with your stepson or your dad!

One obscure neo-mod alleges that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was in reality a monogamous person and polygamy was primarily a mere convenience to acquire tribal allegiance, amongst other reasons. He elaborates on the point: –

“If Muslims chose to ignore 25 years of Prophet’s monogamy and chose 12 years of his polygamy as a benchmark for Islamic principles and values, then this is a sad commentary on Muslims and not on the Prophet of Islam. If Muslims chose to forget the 25 years and remember only the last 12 years then yes Muhammad was a polygamist. After all Muhammad is what we remember of him.”

What an astonishing analysis and reasoning! No other Islamic scholar in the last 1500 years had the ‘intellect’ to deduce such an amazing conclusion. Why must the Muslims choose the first 25 years of the Prophets (SAW) life over the last 12 years? If anything it is the latter part of a person’s life that has more importance, as he develops and matures through life. In the case of the Prophet (SAW) certain laws revealed changed with the elapse of time. Therefore, the subsequent revelations have greater importance, as it can abrogate the earlier revelations but never the reverse (Read Niskh and Mansukh).

Furthermore of the first 25 years, 15 years was prior to him receiving revelation, therefore not acquired the Prophet status? So even by the neo-mod’s reasoning the Prophet (SAW) as a Prophet was monogamous for the first 10 years but polygamous for the next 12 years, hence polygamy should be preferred. In any case, why should anyone advocate such reasoning unless one is ashamed of the Prophets polygamous acts, as he states it is “sad”? So, there is already a preconception about Polygamy in the neo-mods ‘scholarly’ mind. I suppose if he were around at the time of the Prophet (SAW), he would have ‘guided’ the Prophet (SAW) and his companions exclusively to monogamy.

It is only rational and consistent to examine all of the Prophets (SAW) life not to select only part of it to formulate an opinion. The Prophets (SAW) entire life coupled with the Quranic verses indicate that both monogamy and polygamy are permissible. No evidence to indicate that one is preferred over the other, unless you have already formed an opinion about it and interpret the evidence to justify the preconception! These are not scholarly arguments but an attempt by a defeated mindset to reconcile the irreconcilable.

b) Apologists

The apologists are either fervently pragmatists or isolationists. The former are politically active and operate with a defensive mindset. The latter are mostly non-political, their focus is primarily confined to individual activity in gaining knowledge, spiritual enlightenment and some confine to theological issues such as the nature of the Creator.

The isolationist neo-mods by their own conduct are behaving like the medieval monks living in caves, oblivious to the reality, and by de facto promoting a secular version of Islam.

However, a few of these isolationists unexpectedly transformed after 9/11, and suddenly they were advisors to the likes of George Bush, participating fully in the political arena. As the US began a new wave of brutal attacks post 9/11, instead of confronting, the language employed was one of reconciliation and apology. They even resorted to using their Islamic knowledge of the technical terms to justify their (neo-mods) conduct.

As an example they claimed that, the Mujahideen led by Shaikh Usamah Bin Laden are not entitled to declare Jihad in the absence of the Islamic State (Khilafah). The subject of Khilafah has been conveniently avoided and now, it has suddenly becomes important! Since, when does anyone need permission to declare or fight a defensive war (Jihad)? When the slaughter of the defenceless Muslims is rampant, even common sense dictates that permission is not required, not even from the Khalif. No matter how much ‘scholarship’, or ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’ one claims to posses, the truth cannot be hidden under such pretexts.

The pragmatists on the other hand usually resort to provide a convenient interpretation of the legal texts in certain areas, so that it has an acceptable meaning to the non-Muslims and the Muslim secular elite around them. This has dual purpose in seeking to avoid conflict and attaining certain material benefits. As a consequence, this leads to the constant erosion of the Islamic values with the ongoing apology for Islam and being Muslims. In addition, their lack of perception and analysis of the implications of their actions has often resulted in scoring political own goals.

The recent statement issued by the infamous Sheikh Tantawi of al-Azhar is an example of this defensive mindset and lacking the full political awareness of the subject. He used the underpinning ‘principle’ of “obeying the laws of the land” above the divine laws to approve the French governments decision to ban the Islamic scarf. Many of the followers of these neo-mod principles are too embarrassed to explain the statement of the Sheikh and hence the silence.

Some in the name of seeking to influence, every year eagerly attend the Iftar parties at the embassies, where they dine with those who have just murdered so many innocent and defenceless Muslims and non-Muslims. To the contrary, these neo-mods have become useful showpieces in legitimising the actions of these imperialist governments, to the Muslims at home and abroad.

Despite the Iftar parties and the picture shots, were they able to have any influence on the current US policies regarding the captives in Guantanamo Bay, or the war in Afghanistan or Iraq? Only people who are upright, altruistic and principled can engage in political discourse on behalf of their community. Consider the recent example from the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who refused the knighthood on the basis of British governments current policy in Iraq and her colonial history. H! ow many of these neo-mods would turn down such an opportunity on the basis of their self proclaimed leadership and principle?


The neo-mods do not have a consistent position and are trying to reconcile the irreconcilable by twisting evidences, along with their illogical ‘principles’. A position that has caused more confusion, and harmed the Muslims and the non-Muslims. Whilst some may have good intentions but others, and in particular the radical neo-mods clearly have malicious intent, evident by their overt cooperation with those seeking to undermine Islam. Some of these radical neo-mods are using pretexts that are so absurd that it is laughable, (see the polygamy section above) and then they parade themselves as Islamic ‘scholars’, with credentials from institutions that are operating to undermine Islam from its basis.

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The writer is a Graduate in Chemistry from London University and Technical Director. He contributed this article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from the United Kingdom.


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