good muslim, bad muslim

I just finished reading one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read: “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim” by Mahmood Mamdani. Mamdani is a professor of government and director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University, and i first came across him when i read his book “When Victims Become Killers”, about the genocide in Rwanda.

Good Muslim Bad Muslim looks at the rise of political Islam and how this led to 9/11. He points out several times that America itself is responsible for Bin Laden and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, since it was the CIA that set up the “madrassahs” (training camps) in Pakistan that trained most of the bombers, hijackers, etc that we have today. Had the US not enabled them (with weapons, training, etc), they would not have had a venue to come together, and they would not have had the knowledge or expertise to carry out terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11.

Another interesting argument Mamdani makes is that America, now fighting a “war on terror”, actually began using terror as a weapon during the cold war, partcularly in Third World countries. Mamdani makes an interesting and chilling point when he says: “The American bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan and the al-Qaeda bombing of embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam and of the Twin Towers on 9/11: both testify that, when it comes to the contest for power, the rest of the world exists only as collateral.”

Arundhati Roy once said: “Bin Laden has the special distinction of having been created by the CIA and wanted by the FBI.” It is common knowledge that the US trained and supplied Bin Laden, and yet post-9/11, few Americans have re-thought their country’s policies and stance. Rather, many Americans have chosen to ignore America’s less-than-rosy political resume, and instead focus on the evil terrorists out there. As Mamdani says: “…President Bush moved to distinguish between “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims”. From this point of view, “bad Muslims” were clearly responsible for terrorism. At the same time, the president seemed to assure Americans that “good Muslims” were anxious to clear their names and consciences of this horrible crime (9/11) and would undoubtedly support “us” in a war against “them”. But this could not hide the central message of such a discourse: unless porved to be “good”, every Muslim was presumed to be “bad.” All Muslims were now under obligation to prove their credentials by joining in a war against “bad Muslims”.

I definitely recommend this book to anybody interested in politics.


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