Title: Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror
Author: Mahmood Mamdani
Insightful analysis of Americas complicity in the creation of Islamic extremism
Arguments are undermined by some factual errors
Review of how modern Islamic extremism was created by America
Argues that the difference between good and bad Muslims is political, not religious
Explains how Islam has been corrupted by American political involvement
In his book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror, Mahmood Mamdani makes a powerful case for the idea that this entire enterprise is less about religion or Islam and more about American power politics politics which have corrupted not only the American government and American ideals but also Muslims in the Middle East.
On the one hand there are good Muslims who are described as secular and westernized; on the other hand we have bad Muslims who are described as premodern and fanatical. In reality, though, the bad Muslims are whichever Muslims happen to be fighting America, regardless of their actual religious beliefs. Thus the distinction between the two groups is really a political rather than religious one.
How can Mamdani make this argument? Simple: by pointing out that all (or most) of the so-called bad Muslims were actually once good Muslims. Their ideology and religion didnt change, causing them to be recategorized; instead the Cold War ended and instead of opposing Soviet expansion they began to oppose American hegemony.
The defeat of the Soviet Union was in fact the rationale behind the creation and training of radical Islamic groups. President Reagan envisioned a world-wide Crusade of a billion Muslims focused on the U.S.S.R. Instead of the previous policy of containment, Reagan advocated a policy of rollback in which Soviet control was undermined from within via armed insurgents and terrorists and the Soviet Union created the perfect launching point when it invaded Afghanistan.
The Afghan resistance movement to the Soviets was largely a product of Western intervention. There are Afghans who would have fought the communist government anyway, but the movement training centers, weapons, tactics, coordination all existed because of American (and, after some pressure, also Saudi) financing.
- The result...was to flood the region not only with all kinds of weapons but also with the most radical Islamist recruits. ...[They] came from all over the world, not only from Muslim-majority countries...but also...Muslim-minority countries.... There is the well-known example of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, dubbed by Lawrence Wright, writing in The New Yorker, the gatekeeper of the Jihad in the mid-eighties. ...Azzam traveled the globe under CIA patronage.
- He appeared on Saudi television and at rallies in the United States.... Azzam was also one of the founder of Hamas. Azzams message was clear: participation in the jihad is not just a political obligation but a religious duty. ...The numbers recruited and trained were impressive by any reckoning: the estimate of foreign radicals directly influenced by the Afghan jihad is upwards of one hundred thousand. ...The CIA looked for a Saudi prince to lead this crusade but was unable to find one. It settled of the next best, the son of an illustrious family closely connected to the Saudi royal house. ...Bin Laden [once a student of Azzam] was recruited, with U.S. approval at the highest level, by Prince Turki al-Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence.
As bad as all of that sounds, though, it isnt actually the worst of what America did. Yes, the government did recruit radical and fundamentalist Muslims to fight a proxy war against the Soviet Union because it wasnt legal for them to do anything directly, but the more devastating problem was in what Mamdani calls the privatization of the war.