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Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror Paperback – June 21, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; Reprint edition (June 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385515375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385515375
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Osama bin Laden’s pronouncements are rarely published in full in the United States, but transcripts of his messages-often available overseas-provide startling insight into the political, rather than religious, nature of his thinking. "Labeling us, and our acts, as terrorism is also a description of you and your acts," bin Laden said recently. "Our acts are a reaction to your acts." In this meandering rumination on modern-day terrorism, Mamdani takes a controversial step by agreeing with bin Laden, at least on this point; he argues that groups like al-Qaeda are generally motivated by legitimate political grievances with U.S. foreign policy. "In a nutshell," Mamdani writes, "the U.S. government decided to harness and even to cultivate terrorists" during the latter half of the Cold War as it sought to roll back the Soviet Union’s global influence. Now, with that legacy coming back to haunt its creators, Mamdani concludes that "no Chinese wall divides ‘our’ terrorism from ‘their’ terrorism. Each tends to feed the other." These ideas evolved from a series of talks the author gave at New York’s Riverside Church in the weeks after 9/11, and the book retains the informality of those discussions. There are flashes of inspiration, among them a thoughtful distinction between "political Islam" and "Islamic fundamentalism," two terms that are frequently and wrongfully used synonymously. There are also frustrating digressions, and Mamdani makes few attempts to address potential dissenters. Still, readers who can overlook these drawbacks will find that this study does make provocative connections across disciplines and continents-finding similarities, say, between Liberian and Zionist settlers. Mamdani is searching for big ideas, not nuances, and in this he is successful, making his book an important contribution to the national discussion on terrorism and Islam.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Many of the many post-September 11 books probing the causes of Islamic terrorism invoke Samuel Huntington-esque notions about clashes of culture; many of the same books would like to dissociate the "war on terrorism" of the twenty-first century from the more conventional conflicts of the late twentieth century. Both these notions are Mamdani's targets in this book. Politicizing notions of Islam by differentiating between secular, Westernized ("good") Muslims and fanatical, medieval ("bad") Muslims, Mamdani argues, misrepresents the often apolitical character of Islam. It also dangerously ignores cold war-era American complicity in the turbulence of the Muslim world through the waging of proxy wars, particularly the one in Afghanistan in which, says Mamdani, the CIA created Osama bin Laden. Those familiar with Noam Chomsky's recent work will likely find some of Mamdani's arguments familiar, particularly his discussion of imperialistic political violence, racism, and the modern state. Where Mamdani is unique and particularly compelling, however, is in drawing on his African-studies background to back up his assertions about violence, terrorism and Islam. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

The book was quite informative and very well written.
jay Lu
This is a tough book to review--while it does have some valid points to make, it descends all too often into polemics.
Mark E. Hall
Mamdani is a powerful intellectual (who by the way is never invited by the American media to speak!)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 71 people found the following review helpful By AcornMan on February 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As an American, even one who disagrees with much of our foreign policy since the early 1980s, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim is a tough pill to swallow. If you're the kind of person who needs the reassurance of a staunchly pro-American ideological screed to sooth your delicate sentimentalities and shore up your patriotism without questioning your beliefs, this is definitely not the book for you. But if you go into this book with an open mind, willing to have your preconceptions about your country challenged, you will learn a lot from it, albeit painfully.

This book seems to have two main purposes: First, to dispense with the notion that terrorism carried out by Muslims is somehow an intrinsic element of either Islam or Muslim culture; and second, to identify the root causes of that terrorism. The second point is actually a bit more complex though, because what the author really sets out to do is blame the US for causing terrorism. And although he makes some excellent and well-supported points, this is one of the weaknesses of the book, as I'll discuss below.

It was only natural for me to squirm a bit when I read many of the accusations in this book, and because I'm not the kind of person who immediately believes everything he reads in a book that is very obviously tilted heavily toward a single viewpoint I did not simply swallow everything the author says. However, I have to concede that, on most of the major points, I cannot offer a rebuttal. One would think that a book of this nature would spawn a mountain of heated and defensive responses, but I have been very surprised to find that the overwhelming response has been no response at all. In fact, I have been unable to find a single rebuttal to anything in this book.
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48 of 60 people found the following review helpful By L. F Sherman on May 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is the best of the forty or so books I have read recently on the results of recent US foreign policy, on forms of political Islam, on the roots and character of terror, as well as on common misperceptions. Chapter two on "Culture Talk" is itself worth the price of the book. The origins of our enemies in US policy, CIA training, even University of Nebraska contracted textbooks is damaging to the myths supporting US policies now.
Discussion is painfully frank, honest, and thought provoking. Some will be unwilling to face this.
The origins of the worst may be in the Reagan era and now with this preemptive war but Carter and Clinton's errors are noted in what is a constructive rather than partisan analysis.
The types and motives of political Islam is a useful antidote to the simplistic poisonous tripe so common from the Media and the Administration and even scholars who should know better like Lewis and Huntington.
The summary of major costs of the focal Afghan War include, and continue to include, eroding democracy at home; US blowback from the creation of international trained and experienced terrorist Alumni; dramatic increases in Drug trade and users from financing methods of the wars; increased incoherence and decreased communication between the CIA and FBI. One can add that Press self censorship and complicity recently rated the US as not in the top 20 world wide for having a "free Press." The author does not mention that after first disarming then attacking Iraq the US `bully' inadvertently makes a case for nukes for all for some deterrent (remember that word?).
The analysis of an commonality of irrational interest with Israel as another settler state and the discussion of the nature of suicide bombing will upset assumptions widely held but deserve thoughtful consideration.
Read this book! More importantly, THINK about what is said. Definitely worth buying. I'm giving a copy to the local library too!
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87 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover

This is an inspired, disciplined, nuanced, Nobel-level book, and if it ends up saving America from itself, then it would surely qualify the author for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is the first of three "must read" books that I am reviewing today, and it is first because the other two are best appreciated after absorbing this one. The other two books are "IMPERIAL HUBRIS" and "OSAMA'S REVENGE."

The main weakness of this book is the author's lack of strong criticism of Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and of other states that are corrupt, repressive, and therefore a huge part of the problem. Having said that, here are some of the key points:

- "West" pioneered genocide, expulsions, and religious wars, with Spanish genocide of Indians in Americas, and Spanish expulsion of first the Jews and then the Muslims as critical starting points in understanding Muslim rage today

- America adopted terrorism as a preferred means of fighting proxy wars in both Central America and Africa, when Reagan began "rollback" with the same neo-conservative advisors that guide Bush II today.

- West has four dogmas as summed up by Edward Said (who is admired by the author): 1) that Orient is aberrant, undeveloped and inferior; 2) that Orient is inflexibly tied to old religions texts, unable to adapt; 3) that Orient is inflexibly uniform and unable to do nuances; and 4) Orient is either to be feared (Green or Yellow or Brown Peril) or controlled.

- Fundamentalism actually started in the US among the Christians seeking to insert religion into the state's business and ultimately demanding faith and loyalty as the litmus tests for acceptance.
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Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror
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