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What is meant by extremism?

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Masters in Education from Nottingham University in the UK. Also studied Masters in Islamic Studies and Islamic Banking & Finance. Political activist with interests in Geopolitics, History and Phil ...
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What is meant by extremism?

Extremism is a term used to describe the actions or ideologies outside the perceived political centre of a society - it is almost always exonymic and almost invariably used pejoratively. The term is used to describe those who have become radicalized, in some way, even though the term radical originally meant to go to the root of a (social) problem. Many researchers object to the term as "at best this characterization tells us nothing substantive about the people it labels; at worst it paints a false picture."

Nearly any movement that brought about significant change has not been at the political centre, but at one extreme or another - this includes figures ranging from the Prophet Muhammed(saw), Martin Luther, America's founding fathers, the Suffragettes, Nelson Mandella, through to the Communists.

Laird Wilcox, a researcher specializing in the study of political fringe movements, defines extremism by identifying 21 traits of "political extremists". He argues we define as extreme our opponents' positions and our positions as reasonable and moderate. It is not a position a group takes that makes it extreme, but the styles. The key styles comprise those that involve fanaticism, hatred, intolerance and a strong tendency to oppress differing viewpoints:

1. A tendency to character assassination

2. Name calling and labelling

3. The making of irresponsible, sweeping generalizations

4. The failure to give adequate proof of assertions made

5. Advocacy of double standards

6. A tendency to view opponents and critics as essentially evil

7. A Manichean (bipolar) world view

8. Advocating censorship and/or repression of opponents and critics

9. Identifying themselves by reference to whom their enemies are

10. A tendency to substitute intimidation for argument

11. Widely use slogans, buzzwords and "thought-terminating cliches"

12. Claim some kind of moral or other superiority over others

14. Bad things justified in the service of a supposedly "good" cause

15. Emotional responses as opposed to reasoning and logical analysis Muslim Jurists have historically viewed those who advocated ideas without justification from the texts as extremists - whether they were the Khwarijites, the Ismailis and the modern Young Turks. They have always been reluctant to denounce those who base their actions on a theological extraction from the divine texts. Even extreme positions in the classical legal schools of law have been tolerated and rarely condemned.


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