Home Op-ed The importance of non-extremism in Islam

The importance of non-extremism in Islam

By Alison Lake

Morocco World News

Washington, April 17, 2013

While perception of what is ‘extreme’ within a particular religion is subjective, the word became important for the process of understanding Islam following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Al Qaeda’s attacks on the U.S. were motivated by a terrorist anti-Western ideology, but also proclaimed to be motivated by Islam.

Therefore, in the months and years that followed, Westerners and Muslims were compelled to identify and define moderate versus extremist Islam. Furthermore, Muslims around the world denounced the attacks and strove to differentiate between terrorism and Islam.

World’s Muslims

The world’s approximately 1.3 billion Muslims represent myriad countries, ethnicities, languages, sects, customs and viewpoints. Mainstream Muslims do not believe Islam justifies terrorism and refer to the Quran, which states that a Muslim may take another human life only in defense of self or the community, and only under specific circumstances.

For example, “We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person, unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole people.”


In addition, the Quran’s graphic language regarding war with “infidels” has been interpreted various ways. Islam’s detractors argue that Islam and the Quran promote violence, while its supporters state the religion values human life and peace. Since the early decades of Islam, the religion has been scholarship-focused, and today has multiple schools of legal thought that analyze Islamic texts and their purposes. Violence and behavior towards non-believers are two of many topics analyzed by Islamic scholars, with a variety of opinions.


Attention focused more sharply on Islam from a standpoint of national and international security, in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries. This focus increased after the 9/11 attacks and has remained steady as Al-Qaeda continues to be active around the world.

At least since 2011, Muslim countries such as Morocco and Egypt have monitored extremist religious groups and preachers in mosques, while Western nations such as Great Britain, France and the U.S. have focused on Muslim activities in their own countries, with the stated goal being a desire to decrease extremist activities and encourage non-extremism among Muslims.


Non-extremism continues to be centrally important to Muslims who desire to live peacefully and practice their religion. Non-extremism is crucial for governments and communities that wish to foster peaceful living and discourage violent attacks. Muslims see the importance of discouraging Islamic extremism, which hurts their image especially when government agencies are focused on their population. Muslim political parties and organizations around the world are discouraging extremism for the security of their societies and harmony of their communities.

Originally published in : opposingviews

Alison Lake has been a journalist and editor since 2001, working with numerous newspapers and magazines. She has served on the world news desk of the “Washington Post” and contributed to Foreign Policy Online, Al Jazeera English and GlobalPost.

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