COLUMNS: You can read Mustafa Akyol’s regular opinion pieces in:

International New York TimesHürriyet Daily News & Al Monitor.

Watch Mustafa Akyol at TED, arguing for “Islamic liberalism.”

Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty

Islam without Extremes

Islam Without Extremes was longlisted for the 2012 Lionel Gelber Prize



ReviewsFinancial TimesWall Street J. | Kirkus ReviewsActon Institute | Good Reads

InterviewsNPR | Reuters | NRO | Economist | Religion DispatchesWashington Times

Mentions: The Economist I | The Economist IIWall Street JournalWashington Post

“From furious reactions to the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to the suppression of women, news from the Muslim world begs the question: is Islam incompatible with freedom? With an eye sympathetic to Western liberalism and Islamic theology, Mustafa Akyol traces the ideological and historical roots of political Islam. The years following Muhammad’s passing in 632 AD saw an intellectual “war of ideas” rage between rationalist, flexible schools of Islam and the more dogmatic, rigid ones. The traditionalist school won out, fostering perceptions of Islam as antithetical to modernity.

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Comments on the Gezi Park protests in Turkey

To get my take on the mass protests in Turkey against the government, see:

Are protests in Turkey a new Arab Spring? (Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN)

– Erdogan must work for all Turks, not just his own voters (Financial Times)

A Quiet Bit of Advice and Reassurance (New York Times)

– For Turkey this can be a renewal rather than a spring (The Guardian)

– The Lesson: Democracy Is About More Than Counting Votes (Foreign Policy)

– Not a ‘Turkish Spring’: but still important (

– Is Turkey in turmoil? (Al Jazeera English)

– Do protests threaten the Turkish government? (

Anti-Government Protests Persist In Turkey (NPR)

Along with my regular pieces in Al Monitor and Hürriyet Daily News.

In the Room with Mustafa Akyol + Krista Tippett from On Being on Vimeo.

Can Islamists Be Liberals?

[Originally published in The New York Times]

FOR years, foreign policy discussions have focused on the question of whether Islam is compatible with democracy. But this is becoming passé. In Tunisia and Egypt, Islamists, who were long perceived as opponents of the democratic system, are now promoting and joyfully participating in it. Even the ultra-Orthodox Salafis now have deputies sitting in the Egyptian Parliament, thanks to the ballots that they, until very recently, denounced as heresy.

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✪ Book Tour In The US (April 3-23, Coast to Coast)

Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Kansas, SF, NYC & more. Continue reading »

Muslims Are Not Betraying Islam In Embracing Liberal Democracy

[Originally published in The Guardian]

Last week, during a book tour in London, I spoke to a large group of British Muslims on Islam and liberty. A few of the questions that I received from the audience indicated why discussion on this topic is much needed. “If the state gives the people the freedom to do what they want, then they will follow their temptations,” said one Pakistani gentleman. “That’s why the Saudi religious police, which you oppose, is a very good system.”

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✪ Book Tour In The UK (Nov 22-26)

Public events in London and Warwick… Continue reading »

Muslims vs. Cartoons: What To Do Against Blasphemy?

[Originally published in Huffington Post]

Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French magazine, recently became much more famous than it ever was. Early this month, it came out with a provocative issue whose cover presented a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, and the headline, “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing.” Shortly afterwards, the offices of the magazine were firebombed, and its website got hacked.

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The Qur’an, The Bible, And The Urge To Violence

[Originally published in Contending Modernities]

Philip Jenkins’ September 2011 piece, “9/11: Did the Qur’an really make them do it?,” was an eye-opener on the touchy issue of religion and violence. For me it was also a reminder of an anti-Semitic piece of propaganda I found in an Istanbul bookstore years ago.

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Lecture Tour in the US on ‘Islam and Liberty’

LA, Seattle, Stanford, DC. Watch the talk at the Heritage Foundation here »

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Muslims Need Liberalism, Not Just Democracy

[Published in The Daily]

Since 9/11, much ink has been spilled on the troubles of the world of Islam. The problem was painfully obvious: There were only a few functioning democracies in the Muslim world, and simply none among the Arabs. Some even presumed a fundamental contradiction between Islam and democracy. Islam, they argued, could only produce dictatorial regimes.

But there was a serious flaw in this argument. Most of the Middle Eastern dictators — Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Bashar al-Assad of Syria — were secular, not Islamic, figures. In fact, the Islamic groups in these countries, such as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and its various franchises, were often brutally suppressed by the secular autocrats in question.

Read more in The Daily ».

Egypt’s ‘AKP’ On Its Way?

[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News, with readers’ comments]

There was an interesting headline in this weekend’s papers. Khalid al-Zafarani, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told the Associated Press that he and some of his colleagues were working to found “a political party with the same program of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP].” They would copy not just the policies, but also the very name of the Turkey’s AKP, Mr. al-Zafarani explained in Cairo, since they were inspired by the party’s achievements.

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Turkey’s Secularists Had Better Remain Delusional

[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News, with readers’ comments]

You might have been following the events in Syria. In a nutshell, the country’s corrupt, dictatorial and brutal regime has killed more than 2,000 unarmed protestors in the past six months. And it seems willing to kill more and more.

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So, Who Will Protect Secularism Now?

[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News, with readers’ comments]

The question in my headline is asked by many these days, especially in light of the gradual decline of the Turkish military as an intruder into Turkish politics. But the question itself is questionable, for it seems to overlook a few crucial facts. Continue reading »

A Quest For The Historical Atatürk

[Originally published in Hürriyet Daily News, with reader’s comments]

When a lonely shepherd guided his flock out to pasture near the village called Yukarı Gündeş in eastern Turkey, in 1997, he committed a “highly disrespectful [act], an act of treason,” according to a Turkish parliamentarian. For this parliamentarian, along with thousands of other Turks, were present in that middle-of-nowhere place to witness a miracle: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s silhouette, they believed, was miraculously falling on a hill and creating a magical scene which the reckless shepherd and his clueless sheep inadvertently disrupted.

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How ‘Christian’ Is Breivik?

[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News, with readers’ comments]

“I prayed to God,” wrote Anders Behring Breivik, in his 1,500-page manifesto, to “ensure that the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail.” Soon, he went on his terrorist mission, which ended with the ruthless murder of more than 70 innocent souls.

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