So he answered, “Perhaps we should begin with the second part of your question. And that is: the basic principle according to Ahlus-Sunnah is harshness, severe reproach and crudeness against innovations and their people. And that occurs when you are in a position of power. So in this condition, they (i.e. Ahlus-Sunnah) must not show any honour to the innovator. Rather, they must humiliate, demean and scorn their affair. So the basic principle concerning this is found in the text, the biographies of the Salafus-Saalih and the ijmaa’, and it is…”
Then the Shaykh goes on to mention the proofs for this from the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and the aathaar of the Salaf. Afterwards, he goes on to speak about the second part of the question, which relates to ghuluww (extremism) in al-Jarh. So he says,
“The Sunnee must never go to extremes in al-Jarh, because this is Religion with which he worships Allaah. However, we have heard this word being constantly repeated. So the Sunnee worships Allaah the Glorified and Exalted with the jarh. Therefore, according to him, it is Religion with which he worships Allaah. So it is with this that he defends the Sunnah and its people. Likewise, he does the same with at-Ta’deel (praise), it is also Religion. So by Ahlus-Sunnah, I am referring to the Imaams who are keen not to declare a jarh upon anyone due to an innovation, let alone declaring disbelief, except if they have decisive proof, which will testify for them. However, the people of desires explain this as ghuluww. So as long as the proof clearly establishes that so and so from amongst the people is a misguided innovating deviant, then how can this be explained as ghuluww (extremism)? Along with is, it is firmly established amongst Ahlus-Sunnah that they do not declare anyone an innovator, let alone performing takfeer upon anyone, until the evidence has been established upon him. So they are as Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728H) – rahimahullaah – described, “Ahlus-Sunnah are the most knowledgeable of the people with regards to the truth and the most merciful with the creation.” However, the people of desires do not affirm this for them, nor do they trust them, nor do they expand their chests towards them and their hearts are not content with al-Jarh. This is because the Imaams and Scholars of the Sunnah hate the people of innovation. So whenever someone from amongst Ahlus-Sunnah exposes about a man that he is an innovator, the hatred in their souls becomes stronger and their wariness with them grows stronger. So they warn against him, even if he was someone about whom they previously held a good opinion. So this does not please the people of desires.
Yes, it is possible for someone from amongst Ahlus-Sunnah to display something from sternness when he feels that the affair calls for that. At the same time, another person may sometimes use gentler expressions as long as he does not oppose the other person (who is displaying harshness) in the origin of the issue. This is not a place for differing. And if we submit to what has been mentioned in the question from the statement of some of the people of desires that some of Ahlus-Sunnah go to extremes in al-Jarh, then I say that there have been found amongst Ahlus-Sunnah from ancient times those who are strong, but they are not extremists. They are strong in their zeal to protect the Sunnah, and being severe in defending it and defending its people. So the others did not censure such a person, and they did not say that he was dividing the ranks.
For example, they would say that whosoever is declared reliable by Shu’bah (d.160H), then suffice with that. And whosoever he disparages (jarh), then look into his jarh. And it was not claimed about Shu’bah – rahimahullaah - that he was a stern extremist who applied harshness in other than its proper place. And I have not known any man up until this time who is deeply rooted in the Sunnah, and whose heart has donned its cloth, warning against Shu’bah and slandering him amongst others from Ahlus-Sunnah…”
The Shaykh also went on to say,
“It is obligatory to know that Ahlus-Sunnah are upon the middle path:
Firstly: They do not accept the error.
Secondly: They distinguish between the levels of the error.
Thirdly: They employ harshness (shiddah) when harshness is of benefit. And from this harshness is hajr (boycotting) and hadhr (warning) against the man. And they employ gentleness (rifq) when there is no benefit, except in gentleness.”
So they are not always upon gentleness unrestrictedly in every time and place without consideration for the truth. They are people of wisdom and people of insight. So according to them, harshness has its place and according to them, gentleness has its place.” 
The Shaykh – hafidhahullaah – commented at another place,
“So Ahlus-Sunnah was upon this harshness and upon this strength against the people of innovation and misguidance whenever they had the strength and the heavier scale. So they would repel innovation and its people with all power. Likewise, if they were in a position of weakness, not having any might, nor power, nor strength against the innovators, and the innovators were tyrannical and had the weightier scale, then the Ahlus-Sunnah would take a path of wisdom and they would suffice with warning against the innovations and the newly-invented affairs in the Religion of Allaah.
So by Allaah, O sons of ours in parts of the world where the Muslims reside, beware, then beware or opposing this manhaj! Adhere strictly to wisdom, since your Salaf would employ harshness when nothing would benefit, except harshness. And this would be at the time when they had strength. And they would employ gentleness when nothing would benefit, except gentleness. And it was due to this that Ibn Seereen (d.110H) made his statement, “O Ahlus-Sunnah, be gentle. Since you are the least of the people in number.” 
: This section was taken from the cassette tape entitled, ad-Dawaabit lit-Ta’aamul ma’a Ahlis-Sunnah wa Ahlil-Baatil, which is available from Ibn Rajab Recordings in al-Madeenah, Saudi Arabia.
: This section was taken from a cassette tape entitled, al-Haddul-Faasil bayna Ahlis-Sunnah wa Ahlil-Baatil, which is available from Ibn Rajab Recordings in al-Madeenah, Saudi Arabia.