There are many social commentators among Muslims who have a notion about *fair and balance* and being “balanced” as rooted in being centrists or moderates. The pretext used for this is based on the fact that Allah has established the Muslim nation as a balanced nation as He says Himself in the Qur’an in suratul-baqarah
وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَٰكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا
“And We’ve made you [Muslims] a just and balanced nation”
The base interpretation given by exegetes in this excerpt of the ayah has been defined that the Muslim nation has been made to observe justice in all matters and in all things. This entails the attributes of being “fair and balanced”. An added clause to this feature is that the Muslim nation is typically the nation that adopts a middle ground, between two extremes. The problem here that we will address further on is that this is not absolute.
However in reality, this is not the end all and be all of the ayah as it lacks contextualization. Moreover, in this highly polarizing climate today of social media politics, this interpretation legitimizes superficiality to what it truly means to be balanced.
Let us continue on with the ayah to contextualize it. Allah continues saying after this phrase
لِّتَكُونُوا۟ شُهَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا
“so that you may bear witness [to the truth] before others and so that the Messenger may bear witness [to it] over you.”
I don’t want to get sidetracked with all the details and various commentaries on this as anyone can look this up for themselves. Suffice it to say that for the purposes of this write up, the various exegetes have obviously stated that we were a chosen nation to bear witness against other nations in their prophets offering to them the guidance of God to their communities and their rejection of that claim. So those prophets will summon Muhammad’s community as the testifiers testifying against them that those Prophets have in fact conveyed the message to them.
What I want to harp on here is the sociological/societal ramifications of this ayah in practice. The essence of being “fair and balanced” is to be just and to entertain the ability of justice is exercising justice! With that being said, as the second excerpt of the ayah makes clear, we are to bear witness over mankind. There is only one thing that we can bear witness to. And that is towards the truth!!! Otherwise we would be bearing false testimony. In order to bear witness to truth, any truth, a stand and a clear stance MUST be known. This inescapable fact contravenes the notion of centrism!
The problem with todays social political media landscape as it has stood since the rise of online commentary are actually several catastrophes, one of which is neutralizing public participation into the political process by subduing them to emotive topics. This creates the cliche culture and reduces people’s world view into bubbles of emotive gifs for a particular subject as opposed to using rationale to decipher how to assess topics cognitively within reason WHILE utilizing a base moral typically intrinsic to the human template of existence which is also being attacked by moral relativism, but that is another mammoth for another time to tackle. In short, the public has been neutralized in their political participation of their own auto determination of their own life and destiny by reducing their opinions on topics to emotive icons which help create the hyper polarization of society. If anything, black and whiteness is created by the publics emotionalization of topics thrusted by the media as matters of “debate” which in many cases are not suppose to be a matter of debate in the first place. In essence, why we find ourselves in the utterly dehumanized state we are in socially and politically speaking is due to reacting to the media’s presentation of these debates in emotive format, and reacting to them emotionally, as is meant to be stoked by the media barrons and those responsible for givng most people their opinions.
With the above in mind, centrism, or more commonly referred to as being “moderate”, is the notion of taking a middle ground between two opposite extremist views. There are fundamental problems as it relates to this notion of “moderate”.
The problem of centrist “moderate” propaganda is that its only applicable in some scenarios and there are many matters that clearly have only a right way and a wrong way. Yeah, some things are not black and white, noted. What many people fail to realize is its opposite. That is, that in reality, there ARE some things that are black and white. Just as there are many numbskulls who can’t even compute that grey area on subject matters, likewise, there are equally many “moderates” who think there is that same level of grey in all matters, including those issues where there exists clearly a distinct black and white only scenario.
In todays social media landscape, there are some perks with presenting oneself as “moderate”. You present yourself as “between two extremes”. This has the connotation that somehow you can see the matter clearly while others are cognitively incapable of “seeing the big picture” as you do. This allows one to claim the intellectual high ground if you will.
Modern day centrism is more of an opportunist method moreso than moderate for it allows such individuals to deter all backlash, criticism, complicitness, or being implicated in siding with a faction of society that has become the underdog in the political spectrum. As such, the moderate methodology has taken on a methodology of political expediency of not sticking your neck out for the underdog even in those matters for which the “underdog” is clearly right, has the logical high ground, the moral high ground, and for which Allah Himself sides and agrees with as referenced by the congruity between the views of the alleged underdog being in synchronicity to the revelation of Islam.
How Does Centrism Conflict With the Ummatun Wasata Concept in Islam?
In the Islamic model of being balanced, this requires, after investigation of a matter, to determine a solution for that matter when the solution is clearly alluded to, and even insert exception where necessary. In other words, once a solution is found, we actually take a stand REGARDLESS of the ethical sensitivity, or the lack thereof, of any society that may oppose the truth. This is the meaning of being “just” and balanced in practice. If that entails that this stance will be marginalized as “extreme”, then it does not matter the socio-political repercussions.
What we are trying to say here, is that in some, in fact many, circumstances, Islam’s middle and balanced path may COINCIDE with one deemed “extreme” outlook as viewed by the other extremists of the opposite side.
Thus, the difference between a person of balance (one who has adala) and the centrist or moderate, is that a person of adala will side with what is right DESPITE the fact that what is right is politically inconvenient in that time as it is deemed as “extreme” “intolerant”, “laughable”, “conspiracy theory” or any other degrading ad hominem label typically employed by media.
The centrist, the moderate here will fold in this regard and side with what seems “not extreme” and throw what is actually right, which can include Islam itself, under the bus for the sake of this political expediency
The Reality of Nuances
Yes, there are many matters that are NOT black and white. There are indeed nuances that shape exceptions to generalities and allow us to look at details. However there are also multifarious deceptions in this arena. Among them are examples like inapplicable data. Basically most of the rules of logic apply. We do not wish to iconify this article with a specific issue as we wish to use this write up as a generic template for the entire social political media landscape and cite it where necessary. As such, it would not be prudent to cite examples in today’s culture and political debates as we wish to apply this write up to all modern political debate and to be applied for or against all ideologues today.