“Moderate” language

Image Credit: Karen Wehrstein, Gliese 581c, uploaded by Phil Plait

The picture has nothing to do with the subject of the post, it’s just v. cool (follow the link).

Lindsay Bernstein, of Majikthise, has a post up talking of the effect of describing some Muslims (or some Christians) as “moderates”. Although the intent may be to distance some believers from extremists with fanatical goals, a side effect is that it casts the extremist stance as somehow also the orthodox view of that faith, so that jihadists or Christian Dominionists end up being able to cast other Muslims or other Christians as heretics and/or apostates instead of as fellow orthodox believers with different opinions.

The thing to remember is that claims of fundamentalism or orthodoxy are positioning statements for brands. We often treat claims of religious orthodoxy as if they were statements of fact rather than rhetorical devices.

Positioning your doctrine as the orthodoxy is a way to marginalize your competition. If we uncritically allow the most reactionary sects to claim the mantle of orthodoxy, we do the work of fundamentalists for them.

Lindsay’s post was in turn inspired by another post from Asma Khalid: Why I Am Not A Moderate Muslim. Both are very much worth reading.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, language, religion, Science


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