Good Muslim, Bad Muslim
by Mahmood Mamdani
Finished reading Good Muslim, Bad Muslim by Mahmood Mamdani. I expected a very different book based on the title, thinking it was about how one can be perceived as a ‘good Muslim’ or ‘bad Muslim’. Instead, the book illustrated how the US has helped create a positive view of Muslims when they acquiesce to the country’s demands, and a negative view when they don’t adhere to the demands of US leadership. The book provides historical context on how powerful/rich countries have greatly influenced how another country is run, and not always in a positive manner. The author’s historical backdrop, which includes periods from the French Revolution to the Cold War, describes how countries have not been very forthright with their people in communicating their real intentions when they attempt to form a ‘collaboration’ with Muslims. Of course, the book does also tie in the perception of Muslims being “bad” when countries manipulate them for their own benefit (in this case, oil or other goods/services or use of the collective people for political purposes – Iran vs. Iraq, etc.) How could Osama bin Laden be a strong ally to the US and then be seen as terrorist enemy #1 in the world? The ever-changing US foreign policy is analyzed and shown to be a major cause in the shift from once friendly “partners” to terrorists who allegedly bombed the Twin Towers in NYC. Mamdani presents data and examples of how he believes the US actually fostered the terror that hit our country and the world by deciding to harness and even cultivate terrorists during the latter half of the Cold War as it sought to roll back the Soviet Union's global influence. He later goes on to suggest that no Chinese wall divides 'our' terrorism from 'their' terrorism. Each tends to feed the other. Mamdani makes the distinction between "political Islam" and "Islamic fundamentalism". The reader is left to seriously question the succession of ‘fatal errors’ our leadership made in making deals with individuals/groups that the government later tried to destroy. Most of what is presented in the book (Iran Contra hearings, 9/11, Central American unrest, military coups in South America) were all things I remembered growing up, and I found it helpful to gain another perspective. Historians and those looking to serve in governmental leadership positions will enjoy this particular point of view, whether to agree with or emphatically debate.