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Saturday, April 12th, 2014

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

Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Islam without Extremes

Islam Without Extremes was longlisted for the 2012 Lionel Gelber Prize



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“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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Muslims Are Not Betraying Islam In Embracing Liberal Democracy

Monday, December 12th, 2011

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

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

[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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Muslims Need Liberalism, Not Just Democracy

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

[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?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

[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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How ‘Christian’ Is Breivik?

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

[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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