1. Religion & Spirituality
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (3 Reviews)


Good Muslim, Bad Muslim

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror

The American government says that we are engaged in a war against terrorism, not a war against Islam. Of course, all of he terrorists being targeted happen to be Muslim, leading to the attempted distinction between “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims.” Upon what is this distinction based, and is it a valid way of viewing the Middle East?


Title: Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror
Author: Mahmood Mamdani
Publisher: Pantheon
ISBN: 0375422854

•  Insightful analysis of America’s 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


Book Review

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 didn’t 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.“
Good Muslim, Bad Muslim

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror

    “He appeared on Saudi television and at rallies in the United States.... Azzam was also one of the founder of Hamas. Azzam’s 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 isn’t 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 wasn’t legal for them to do anything directly, but the more devastating problem was in what Mamdani calls the “privatization” of the war.

» Continue...

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
Bedroom Terrorists, Member Helen008

After I finished reading this book, I felt a surge of HOPE Following world events made me very depressed Every time I watch the news about another massacre preformed in the name of religion,and all the innocent people died or crippled ,I ask myself WHY ?? these killers are roaming the world now, selecting their targets freely , are they trying to punish us for not being Muslims ??? where are our political leaders ? our religious leaders ? Our security forces that took on the job of protecting us from Evil acts Yes, I felt at ease because one Brave man decided to tell the whole truth to the whole world like the old saying,,,if you know the source of the problem.you have solved more than half Ramzy Mosa ,whoever you are,, Thank you very much

2 out of 2 people found this helpful.

See all 3 reviews

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.