Apr 28, 2017
After every terrorist attack, politicians and pundits reassure
us that the atrocity does not represent the true beliefs of the
"moderate Muslim majority." But how many moderates are there? And
what exactly does "moderate" mean? Military instructor and
researcher Hussein Aboubakr explains.
After every new Jihadist attack against the West, politicians
reassure us that the atrocity does not represent the true nature of
mainstream Islam. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, they
constantly reassure us, the overwhelming majority are as law
abiding as any members of any other monotheistic faith. Only a tiny
fraction engage in terror. And Islam is a religion of peace.
Furthermore, we are told, the great majority of Muslims hold
But what does that mean? How moderate are moderate Muslims?
Given the threat of radical Islam, it would seem to be a fair
question. Let me start to answer it by telling you something of my
I was raised in a middle class Muslim home in Cairo, Egypt.
Growing up, I was told, among many other things, the following:
That every day that passes on the Islamic nation without a
caliphate is a sin. That the failures and miseries of the Muslim
world started the moment we Muslims gave up conquests and wars
against the infidels. That our prosperity depended on conquering
new lands and converting new believers. That anyone who leaves the
faith must die. And I also remember how my teachers and my mosque
imams reacted to the news of 9/11 when it happened: joy.
My experience was typical, and there is data to prove it:
According to the Pew Research Center, 88% of Muslims in Egypt, 62%
in Pakistan, 86% in Jordan and 51% in Nigeria believe that any
Muslim who choses to leave Islam should be put to death. Similar,
if not identical, numbers are in favor of stoning people who commit
adultery, severely punishing those who criticize Muhammad or Islam,
and chopping off hands for theft.
All of these practices are a part of the penal code of Islamic
law, which is known as Sharia. And 84% of Muslims in South Asia,
77% in Southeast Asia, 74% in the Middle East and North Africa and
64% in Sub-Saharan Africa support Sharia as the law of the land.
Less drastic, yet significant, percentages are to be found even
among Muslim communities in the West.
So, too, most of the world's Muslims believe that any acts of
violence against Israel, including suicide bombers in buses and
restaurants, are justified. Now, does any of this sound
moderate to you? Yet if anyone raises these inconvenient truths
here in the West, he is sure to be called an Islamophobe, a hater
of Islam. Again, my own story is instructive.
In February of 2015, I was yelled at, cursed at, and
successfully prevented from speaking at Swarthmore College by
students and others who did not agree to what I was saying. Some of
them were Muslim women who fit the image of the unveiled, perfect
English-speaking, moderate Muslim young woman. Other seeming
“moderates” tried and failed to do the same during my speech at
Temple University the next day. Some of them, sadly, were students
It is not Islamophobic to note the tragic fact that, at this
time in history, the Muslim world is dominated by bad ideas and bad
beliefs. That is why millions of so-called moderate Muslims do not
rise up to denounce Islamist terror – because the word “moderate,”
as we understand it, doesn't really apply. If moderation means you
tolerate freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the
press, women's rights and gay rights, moderate Muslims are a
distinct minority. Of course, they exist. Millions of them. But
among believing Muslims, they do not represent anywhere near a
The values of the West and the values of Islam as practiced in
the Muslim worlds of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia,
and more and more in Europe, are not compatible. Western
politicians can deny this, but this denial does not change the
It is these bad ideas and beliefs that provides the soil in
which radical Islam grows. Ignoring this only prevents us
from effectively fighting Islamist terror, and at the same time it
hurts those heroic Muslims who really are moderate.
Until we begin to tell the truth about Islam – always in
respectful language – the only solution to Islamist terror will
never take place. That solution is Islam reforming
I do believe that reform is possible. It can, of course, only be
done from within Islam. The West can be a part of that
reform, but only if it faces – and tells – the truth.
The sooner it does so, the better – for all of us.
I'm Hussein Aboubakr for Prager University.