Mustafa Akyol is a 'good' Muslim and I am a 'bad' Christian

Published in Turkish Daily News, 25 August 2007

Professor Mahmood Mamdani has drawn our attention to two different voices that dominated the American stage following September 11 attacks: the ‘clash of civilizations’-camp, spear headed by Samuel Huntington, which sees an inescapable, clear-cut conflict and the other option lead by Bernard Lewis, which suggests that the West should distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims and work with them. Clearly, the US and the UK have chosen the later option. Within this framework, portraits of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims were redefined in relation to pro-Western, pro-modern, pro-democratic attitudes and were resourced in order to push the ‘bad’ ones into the margins.

Such policies of enforcement and silencing are not new at all. When we look at the history of the Cold War and Afghanistan, we see how the US first enforced, armed, trained ‘good’ Muslims, i.e. Taliban and the likes of Bin Laden in the fight against the godless Communists, who have since then, as we all know, turned into ‘bad’ Muslims who are our barbaric and uncivilized enemies. A similar change is unfolding in Iraq: even though the ‘bad’ Muslims are out, supposed ‘good’ Muslims are still resisting playing the game according to the rules drawn for them.

As many commentators have pointed out before, ironically it took the violence done in the name of Islam to officially establish Islam as a “religion of peace”. Now, anyone in the West who wishes to highlight certain problems or issues that don’t fit the new strategy, such as gross Human Rights violations in most of the countries with a dominant Muslim population, will receive the cold treatment as an ‘Islamophobic’ whistleblower.

However, one would be mistaken to see the use of social control mechanisms to sterilize the ‘opposition’ only in relation to ‘taming’ Islam. Since 9/11, the same tools have been used on non-supportive academics by branding them as ‘enemy supporters’ through networks such as Campus Watch. Bureaucrats, who have expressed concerns over the ethics and policies of Bush administration, have been named ‘softies’. Other religious communities too were divided into the categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

The makings of a ‘bad’ Christian:

I have written a rather academic (meaning dull and full of exotic terms) article sometime ago, titled ‘A Theology of Guantanamo Bay’, which argued that the worldview which can imagine a mechanism of exclusion like ‘indefinite detention’, similar to that of the Homo Sacer figure in the Roman law, is a theologically constructed one and that such a political theology contradicts the Christian faith in and through, and that any Christian who does not speak against it lives in utter contradiction, similar to the contradiction of a ‘Christian’ President sanctioning it.

Various US publications have turned down my article without commenting why. I have received sharp reactions to talks I have given on this topic from some American Christians, who have virtually identified Jesus Christ with US politics. The fact that I am a Turkish Muslim apostate apparently is a psychoanalytical reason why I am still resisting being a ‘good’ Christian supporting their quest. So in effect, the US policies have not only defined for us who is a ‘good’ Muslim and thus should be given airtime, and what dimensions of Islam should be highlighted or left out, but also have defined who a ‘good’ Christian is and who can be brought onto the lectern or quoted on media.

‘Good’ Muslims can turn out to be ‘bad’ anytime:

The 20th century has clearly shown how quickly ‘good’ Muslims can be declared ‘bad’. The Muslim voices which the US and UK seek to enforce today may be muted tomorrow, thus today’s reformers can turn into nuisances very soon, especially in Europe as increasing amount of voices are calling for a ‘tougher stand’.

To be fair, the voices of the likes of Tariq Ramadan or Mustafa Akyol, whose sincerity and intellect I have tremendous respect for, need to be heard more, but more in the Islamic world rather than the West. By choosing the Muslims we like and turning our faces away from the ones we don’t, we leave out the voices we need to hear and engage the most, as they are often the ones forming the opinions of the masses or creating ‘problems’. So, I wonder whether the current policies of supporting ‘good’ Palestinians- i.e. Fatah, and muting ‘bad’ Palestinians- i.e. Hamas, in the hope that problems will vaporize, serves more as a therapeutic dose of hope for us rather than a solid basis for an actual long term solution. It obviously did not work in dealing with global militant jihadists, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Christians, well, the greatest portion of the non-Western Christians is increasingly agreeing on a language of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, significantly different from our counterparts in North America. After all, the highest numerical growth rate of Christianity today is recorded in Latin America, Africa and Asia, which have been shifting the centre of Christianity away from lands (and political agendas) that see themselves as ‘chosen nations’.