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Research Paper

Moderate Muslims and Islamist Terrorism: Between Denial and Resistance

09 Aug 2017
Long read by Alex P. Schmid

Since President Trump attempted to ban Muslims from certain countries from entering the United States, the question which Muslims are ‘moderate Muslims’ and which are potential ‘radical Islamist terrorists’ has gained new relevance. While some Muslim leaders deny any connection between their religion and terrorism, it is undeniable that many terrorists claim to act in the name of Islam. This Research Paper first seeks to determine where the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims stand in relation to terrorism, distinguishing between Jihadist Muslims, Islamist Muslims, Conservative Muslims and Pluralist Muslims. It then looks at which criteria would allow us to distinguish between ‘moderates’ and other Muslims. Subsequently, the focus is on the role of moderation in Islam itself, whereby attention is given to the Global Movement of Moderates which originated in Malaysia. While some leading Muslim scholars stress that moderation is a central value in Islam, many Muslims nevertheless do not like to be called ‘moderates’ for fear of being seen as pro-Western. A further section of this Research Paper looks at how Islamist extremists view moderate Muslims. This is followed by a section that focuses on moderate Muslims voicing their opposition to Islamist terrorism – something often overlooked by Western media. The concluding section raises the thorny question whether moderation is rooted in Islam itself or comes from outside and the author pleads for humanism to be the middle ground for moderates of all faiths and political persuasions.

How to cite: Schmid, A. P. "Moderate Muslims and Islamist Terrorism: Between Denial and Resistance", The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague 8, no.9 (2017).