Introduction and Etymology:
Enlightened Moderation is a phrase comprised of two words, ‘Enlightened’ which is not only the product of education, rather it is a state of mind. It implies being open to reason and to a wide spectrum of opinions of a variety of schools of thought, irrespective of consent or disagreement over a particular matter. ‘Moderation’ on the other hand side is a mixture, i-e: it entails to have or possess qualities or features of two dielectrically opposed theories or concepts. It is a middle-of-the-road concept unlike to be on either of the extreme. In other words, Enlightened Moderation simply means to be progressive and modern and still retaining the fundamental beliefs of Islam.
The idea of Enlightened Moderation applies to the religion of Islam and advocates that Islam be practiced in a moderate way rather than in a fundamentalist or extremist fashion. It connotes to be open to and tolerant of other sects and religions, its followers and their beliefs and to refrain from exercising the ideas or beliefs of Islam in extreme fashion. We, the Muslims, must be open and fair to reason, logic and rational thoughts and ideas. This is a strategy that aims at ameliorating the image of Islam in the global arena which has been caricatured by practicing its fundamentalist brand which in turn has given rise to social evils like militancy and extremism. Enlightened Moderation emphasizes the adoption of balance and placatory approach, so that the negative image of Islam could be reconstructed into a positive one.
The proposition of the theory of Enlightened Moderation came against the backdrop of the incident of September 11 (Twin Tower/Word Trade Center) incident. The very term or phrase was coined by the erstwhile President of Pakistan, Gen. (r) Pervez Musharraf, at the annual OIC summit conference held at Malaysia in 2002. He later clarified his stance further on the Enlightened Moderation when he composed a full-fledged article Time for Enlightened Moderation, which got published in a number of newspapers nationally as well as internationally, in 2004, explicating the need and importance of the theory.
Strategy of Enlightened Moderation:
Enlightened Moderation, according to Pervez Musharraf, is an elaborate strategy and complete plan of action which aims at securing mother earth from menace militancy, extremism and terrorism and making it a safe abode for all of the mankind, Muslims and Non-Muslims equally, struggle for wiping off the vile image of Islam that is portrayed in the minds of Non-Muslims, esp. in the West by exercising the fundamentalist brand of Islam and to send a clear message to the world, convincing them that Muslims aren’t extremists so as to attain the soft image internationally, to remove any misconceptions and wipe off false perceptions that west has about Islam and Muslims. Also, this strategy aims at curbing militancy by the counteraction of education.
The strategy of Enlightened Moderation is expounded as a two pronged strategy:
a) The first part applies to the Muslim world, i-e: to enlighten and inculcate the fundamentalist and fanatic Muslims to refrain from indulging into activities that are considered as extreme, to give up militant endeavors and acts and to espouse the path of socio economic uplift for the betterment of their country in particular and Ummah in general.
b) The second part applies to the west, i-e: countries in the west, especially US, are obliged to help in the socio economic uplift of the deprived Muslim world, they must expedite the process of resolving issues with justice that entail the misery of Muslim world and to assist in the eradication of the political injustices and disputes.
The two points, Obligations of the East and West each, are now explained in detail pertaining to the Strategic and Operational parameters.
A) Muslim Prong of the Strategy:
This prong of the strategy is to be delivered by Muslims in four parts/steps:
- To nullify/dispel the perception that all Muslims are fundamentalists, extremists or religious fanatics.
- To enlighten/educate the fundamentalist Muslims and make them give up fundamentalist ideas and concepts, to bring them back on to the middle-of-the-road Islam. To inculcate in their minds that Enlighten Moderation is actually what Islam has been preaching since the times of Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.W).
- To use them for the economic uplift of the society and ummah at a large.
- To reanimate the OIC for the fulfillment of the aspirations of the Muslim world and for the emancipation of the poor, deprived and alienated Muslim countries.
Terrorism is one of the biggest threats of the day that the world faces. Any person involved in terroristic activities is loathed by people of all sects, religions, places and races. The problem that Muslims face today is that West deems all the Muslims around the world as Terrorists and Extremists. They perceive/see around 1 billion Muslims through the same lens, categorizing them all together as terrorists, which is not fair. In any society, at any given time period, there are always some militant and extremist elements and outfits who would not like other people to live in peace, compassion and mutual harmony. Such elements are always in a quest to sabotage the peaceful living of other people. Same is the case with Muslims society; there are some militant and extremist elements who execute the afore-mentioned acts, but here is what the West needs to understand that these people are a mere handful out of a population of well over a billion Muslims, just like all the Irish people couldn’t be tagged as members of the cult IRA, likewise all English couldn’t be considered as members of the EDL. They don’t represent the whole lot. Most of the Muslims are not like them and detest the way that they have opted for, while also hate being tagged as a fundamentalist or terrorist. Most of these miscreants do these foul acts in the name of Islam, while pursuing some other agenda. A larger percentage of them have resorted to terrorist acts (oftentimes in the name of Islam) as a reaction to the Political Injustices done to them. Also, a fraction of the same people is the enemies of Islam who dwell under the guise of Islam and exploit the sentiments of innocent people for the pursuit of their evil ideas and deeds.
The next challenge that Muslims face today is to indoctrinate the extremist and fundamentalist elements again against the fundamentalist version of Islam and how to woo them over to the middle-of-the-roader version of the aforesaid religion. This challenge can only be achieved through education and enlightenment of those people. They must be convinced that ‘Enlightened Moderation’ is what Islam advocates. Islam despises and discourages fanaticism, extremism and apocalyptic religious fervor. One must not go beyond the pre-defined boundaries. As a matter of fact, Islam is the most logical religion on the face of earth, so Muslims must be open to reason(ing) and rational queries and comments. Islam encourages the exercise of reasoning, rationality and good judgments. It can answer all sorts of questions, as Islam is the only perfect religion. Being open to reason doesn’t mean, in any possible sense/way, to compromise the religion of Islam or its principles, and/or injunctions, neither does it mean undermining the basic Islamic beliefs and injunctions. So ‘Enlightened Moderation’ is not any product of the west, and this creed is rather Islamic and rational dictated by both Islam and the intellectual commonsense of the west. Muslims must be the vanguards of rational thoughts and rational approach, optimism, broad-mindedness, and positivity. They must be educated to realize the fact that both the doers of terrorist acts as well as the sufferers, both, are mainly Muslims. How come such acts going to help with the projection of a nice, moderate and reasonable image of Islam, and how come these acts going to convince/inspire the non-Muslims, rather these disgust them from the religion. The holy prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) never preached fundamentalism, extremism, and/or fanaticism. He always has been the harbinger of change, progression, modernization and advancement. Muslims of the day have put the teachings of Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) on their back. They were adamant to get out of their shell, rather remained in there while the rest of the world progressed. This is the main reason why Muslims are left far behind the rest of the world in the fields of education, esp. Science and Technology. So the only way to get them back on track is to educate them and reintroduce them to the moderate Islam. This is the only option that we have!
The third challenge that Ummah confronts is how and what to do to get the deprived Muslim world emancipated off the economic shackles and how to use the now-ex-fundamentalists or religious militants for their own betterment and socio-economic wellbeing. The economically sound and stable Muslims countries are obliged to extend their full support towards the economic uplift of the poor ones. Once all the Muslims succeed in putting aside their grudges and disputes, with the realization that they can only get their voice heard and raise voice for their rights once they are economically strong. This is the reason why they should put all their energy in for their social and economic uplift. This will not only help the poor countries and their people who live their lives in abject poverty and despair to get out of the pit of destitution and dismay, but also help with the long tarnished, distorted and vile image of Islam to reconstruct it into a more accommodative, open, and soft one.
The fourth and probably the most important challenge is how to reanimate or reinvigorate the OIC – What Musharraf described as ‘the operational parameter of the strategy of Enlightened Moderation’. It is a corporal body of about 57 Muslim countries. It is important that the OIC be restructured and reorganized in a way that accords with the trends and conventions of the contemporary time. All the member states must put their efforts to fortify the organization Politically, Socially, and Economically. Only then, it will be in a position to raise voice for the Muslims, their rights, and Justice.
B) West Prong of the Strategy:
West must do the following as a commitment to their prong of the strategy of Enlightened Moderation:
- Resolutely resolve all the disputes of the Muslim world.
- Help in the economic uplift of the Muslim countries living in utter destitution.
West must know the cause for extremism and militancy is not religion but Political injustices, denial and deprivation. As Musharraf describes it in his article,
“Political injustice to a nation or a people when combined with stark poverty and illiteracy makes the explosive mix leading towards an acute sense of deprivation, hopelessness and powerlessness. A people suffering from a combination of all these lethal ills are easily available cannon fodder for the propagation of militancy and the perpetration of extremist, terrorist acts”
It is an established fact now that it is the west that has been antagonizing Muslims though so many incidents and events, that have literally polarized the whole Muslim world – dividing it between the Extremists on one hand and Liberals on the other. We can trace back the genesis of the Muslims getting tagged as Extremist or Militants. First of all there was only the Palestinian Intifada as the only concern in the Muslim world, then the Soviets attacked Afghanistan which worsened the matters even more, then came the Americans, also invading Iraq. We can go on mentioning many more like Chechnya, Bosnia, and Burma etc. The reason to recapitulate this is to let the world know that it is not the religion of Islam that preaches the Extremism and Militancy but the political injustices done to the people, who as a reaction, in disgust, adopt the path of extremism and militancy. For attaining global peace, it is essential that West must fairly resolve all the issues and disputes of the Muslim world.
Secondly, West, esp. the US must help the deprived Muslim countries in their economic uplift to make them stand on their legs. In this regard, they must give aid to the poor countries, fund the education sector, work out employment opportunities, and increase trade with those countries.
It is clear that both the prongs aim at establishing global peace, resolving decades long disputes between Muslims and Non-Muslims, building mutual harmony and emancipation of the deprived Muslim countries.
Points of argument in favor of Enlightened Moderation:
Supporters of the Enlightened Moderation tend to support their arguments in its favor with the following points:
- The only strategy to put an end to extremism, militancy, terrorism and fundamentalism.
- Enlightened Moderation is advocated by Islam, i.e. Quran and Hadith.
“Ummatan Wasatan” (A moderate community) – Al Quran.
“Khair ul Umoori Ausatuhaa” (Moderation is the best course) – Hadith of Prophet Muhammad PBUH.
- The only way to empower Muslims and get their voice heard.
- It unites Muslim countries.
- Enlightened Moderation is the strategy to smoothen the disputes of Muslim countries.
Enlightened Moderation and Modernization Vs Westernization:
Most people confuse Enlightened Moderation and Modernization with Westernization despite the fact that these are completely irrelevant concepts. Westernization is the adoption of foreign cultures, imitating the way westerners live, dress, eat, and meet etc. while Enlightened Moderation and Modernization are the concepts that emphasize progression and advancement and knowledge. These espouse being enlightened with knowledge and open to criticism and reasoning. Musharraf said,
“We must adopt a path of moderation and a conciliatory approach to fight the common belief that Islam is a religion of militancy in conflict with modernization, democracy and secularism.”
Musharraf’s concept of the Enlightened Moderation has been the target of criticism by critics of almost all walks of life, from the very beginning. Amid Muslims, the supporters of the so-called ‘Moderate’ Islam are considered classic example of those who don’t really care about the religion for any possible thing, except for their vested interests. In this analysis we will see if it is really their benighted opportunism that makes them espouse ‘moderate’ Islam as a tool for their self-promotion. Their stance and positions change frequently with the ever-changing preferences of the US; and this is the proof of self-centered approach in this respect, but an objective analysis of their approach is imperative.
While writing the Time for Enlightened Moderation, Musharraf tries to kill two birds with one stone. He tries to please both Muslims and Non-Muslims by pushing their agenda of ‘War within Islam’ through the neo-cons of the west and Muslim neo-mods.
Pervez Musharraf craftily puts forward the Enlightened Moderation as a strategy and not another form of Islam to avoid annoying Muslims and win their hearts and minds instead.
He says in his article,
“The suffering of the innocent multitudes, particularly my brethren in faith – the Muslims – at the hands of militants, extremists, terrorists, has inspired me to contribute towards bringing some order to this disorderly world. It was this very urge which led me to expound the strategy of Enlightened Moderation.”
But he hides his source of inspiration which is nothing but his vested interest.
Why would not a true Muslim be moderate without following the Enlightened Moderation? He provides no explanation or reason whatsoever.
Musharraf commences the article with senseless sentence like “something must be done to stop carnage”. He appeals and sounds so apologetic which makes no sense because appeasements don’t help in changing the minds of the perpetrators nor their policies.
He resolves quite early that “the perpetrators of the crimes are…. Muslims”. Now here he tries to please the west and the Islamophobes, endorsing their stance of classification of the Muslims. His argument lacks fairness, though. Compare this with those who are covered up to their necks in innocent blood, having scores of nuclear weapons, has violated so many times the sovereignty of so many countries, bypassed UN to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. But this seems nothing to him to consider.
One of the basic and frequent objection is that why does the world attribute terrorism, extremism and massacre with Muslims for the death of a wee no. of people, while not associating these with the people afore-mentioned in the preceding point.
Musharraf has expounded Enlightened Moderation as a two-pronged strategy: a) Shunning Extremism/Militancy b) Adopting the path of socio-economic uplift.
Now as far as the two prongs are concerned, no one really would long to live in ever going wars and violence and never ending poverty. Also, Quran and Hadith (as well as Sunnah) together makes Islam – denounces and discourages violence. So what is the point in embracing a new version of Islam? Musharraf just doesn’t clarify and answer this question in his article.
As for as the second prong of the Enlightened Moderation is concerned, the dilapidated situation Muslims are in, is not because of their alleged obsession with their faith rather their lack of obsession with it, and this is the reason they cannot manage to get out of the darkness. They don’t need any kind of Enlightened Moderation to ameliorate their state. The Enlightened Moderation is a completely misleading title and is quite irrelevant with the propounded strategy, which in turn is devoid of common sense.
He tries to equate moderation with ‘conciliatory approach’ and shows that Islam is not in conflict with secularism. This is the crux of all this effort wherein he tries to make his political guile acceptable to the west, and equates secularism with Islam.
Every now and then, in the article, Musharraf makes appeals to the west, esp. US, “…to resolutely resolve all the political disputes concerning Muslims with justice”. The inference one can draw from it is that US (and west) are not dealing with justice and their injustice is the root cause of the problems today, and whoever stands by the unjust in perpetrating injustice becomes accomplice in the crimes of unjust. So why Musharraf doesn’t call US and its allies as terrorists for this particular reason? Why is he appealing to them for justice, instead?
Let us agree with him that “A people suffering from a combination of all these lethal ills are easily available cannon fodder for the propagation of militancy and the perpetration of extremist, terrorist acts”. Question is: What is the root cause of all these ills? When these ills don’t originate from Islam, why then introduce different version of Islam, or a strategy with a misleading title, to address them?
After an impartial and unbiased objective analysis of this whole concept and the involved factors leads one to conclude that this whole concept – though put forward with such dexterity that can quite easily influence and possibly win over hearts and minds of people – is in itself contradictory and paradoxical as is clear from ‘criticisms’ stated above. It aims at unifying the Muslim world, where as in reality it has divided Muslims between Liberals and Fundamentalists. The drawbacks of this strategy overwhelm its merits and advantages. It is not strong enough a strategy to apply as it is not acceptable to most of the Muslims, It lacks clarity and fairness. Hence it is not feasible.