Difference Between Moderate and Radical

The main difference between moderate and radical is that moderate means someone who holds moderate or average views concerning a particular subject whereas a radical holds extreme views on the same particular subject matter. A radical, unlike a moderate, use extreme measures, such as violence at most times, as the main means of creating a voice and eventually accomplishing his aims.

Moderate and radical are adjectives that can be used to describe the stance of someone towards some philosophy or some other field. These two terms are often used in the arenas like religion and politics to describe the stance of their followers.

Key Areas Covered

1. Who is a Moderate
     – Definition, Stance, Characteristics 
2. Who is a Radical
     – Definition, Stance, Characteristics
3. Similarity Between Moderate and Radical
     – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Moderate and Radical
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Behavior, Ideologies, Moderate, People, Politics, Radical, Religions, Stance

Difference Between Moderate and Radical- Comparison Summary

Who is a Moderate?

By definition, moderate refers to someone who holds moderate or average views on a particular subject matter. This specifically concerns those who hold average views or ideas based on politics or religious philosophies. Therefore, a moderate person does not advocate violent and rigorous means of achieving his goal, unlike a radical.

Nevertheless, it does not mean that he does not have direct objects and goal and does not strive to achieve them like a radical, but rather he will use other non-violent means such as protesting and propaganda to accomplish them. Moreover, unlike a radical, who will create social upheaval while achieving his aims through violence, sometimes the impact of a moderate person’s methods in accomplishing the same goal may last longer and be more effective in comparison to that of a radical.

Main Difference - Moderate vs Radical

Figure 01: Attendees at a Moderate Islam Union

A moderate politic can be defined as ‘someone who sits between the two extremes of liberal and conservative, usually combining aspects of both (example: liberal on social issues yet conservative on economic issues)’. Consequently, a moderate person in politics and religion will always respect the prevailing system and the fundamentals. Furthermore, one could also say that a moderate person will be more objective and is not biased so that he can listen to other’s ideas and viewpoints.

Who is a Radical?

In contrast to a moderate, a radical is someone who holds extreme ideas and views on a particular subject matter. In other words, these people are also known as ‘extremists’. Therefore, unlike a moderate, the main means of creating a voice and eventually accomplishing his aims is to use extreme measures such as violence at most times.

Political radicals are those ‘ who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims’. Therefore, they create social upheaval and violence in order to achieve their ultimate targets.

Radicals, therefore, act far beyond the standard social and religious norms. They are more subjective and are biased only to their own ideological stance, disregarding the other’s viewpoints. Social and political violent activities initiated by political and religious insurgent groups, terrorists, racists etc. exemplify the gravity of these radicals to carry out their ultimate objectives.

Difference Between Moderate and Radical

Figure 02: A Radical Religious Group

Therefore, it is evident that radical do not respect the prevailing social and cultural norms and accepted hierarchy, and envisage to bring about a complete and often a radical change to the system.

Similarity Between Moderate and Radical

  • Both moderate and radical have clear goals and aims, only their manner of accomplishing them differs.

Difference Between Moderate and Radical


A moderate is someone who holds moderate views or a moderate stance on something while a radical on the other hand is someone who holds extreme views or an extreme stance on something.


Moderate does not advocate violence in his actions, unlike a radical who pursues extreme measures, which are often accompanied by violence.

Achieving Goals

A moderate has clear goals and objectives, but his manner of achieving them is not violent. However, radical also has very clear and direct goals, which are achieved in whatever manner possible, even by using violence.


A moderate has an average or a moderate stance while a radical has a radical or an extreme stance.


Moderate and radical are terms used to describe the stance of someone. The difference between moderate and radical is that a moderate holds moderate views while a radical holds extreme views. Similarly, their manner of achieving their particular objectives is also different; a moderate person does not necessarily use violence whereas a radical person uses radical and violent methods.


1.“Radical – Dictionary Definition.” Vocabulary.com, Available here.
2. Rubin, Michael, et al. “Is There a Difference Between ‘Moderate’ and ‘Radical’ Islamism?” Commentary Magazine, 25 June 2015, Available here.
3. Ball, Molly. “Moderates: Who Are They, and What Do They Want?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 15 May 2014, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Attendees of the Voices of Moderate Islam reunion pose for a group photo at Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar province, Afghanistan, Oct 101014-A-UH396-235” By PFC Donald Watkins  (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Isis-viceo 2941899c” By Alibaba2k16 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

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