Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror
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Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  469 ratings  ·  51 reviews
In this brilliant look at the rise of political Islam, the distinguished political scientist and anthropologist Mahmood Mamdani brings his expertise and insight to bear on a question many Americans have been asking since 9/11: how did this happen?" Good Muslim, Bad Muslim" is a provocative and important book that will profoundly change our understanding both of Islamist po...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 21st 2005 by Three Leaves Publishing (first published 2004)
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This book is virtually the authentic history of the genesis of islamic terrorism as we see today. It starts with the hey days of the Cold War, the US role in privatising war and conflict, its nefarious role in South Africa, Mozambique, Nicaragua, the use of drug money for financing war, creation of Afghani jihad forces to fight Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the CIA role in creating conflict situations, which has resulted in the menace of Islamic Terrorism as we see today. The book does...more
A must read if you understand that no event in the modern world is abstracted from decades of history, politics, and complicated relationships. It will open your eyes.
Definitely a must-read for those who need some fodder when dealing with American jingoists. Mamdani covers the double standards in US foreign policy from Latin America and Africa, to the Middle East and Afghanistan. The first part of the book is mainly about Latin America & Africa and read a bit more slowly than the rest (he was building up to show how American involvement in Middle East/Afghanistan is related to cold war politics---including support for right wing despotic governments over...more
Aug 26, 2007 Emily rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Americans, Republicans
Shelves: booksofthepast
This is an ambitious book that attempts to cover the involvement of the US in the Middle East (and Asia as a whole) during the time of the Cold War. Mamdani argues a number of points, many of them in attempt to debunk the idea that Muslims are the world's only terrorists, that it was cultural determination that lead to violence in the Middle East and not American and foreign meddling, and that there are no solutions to the US vs Middle East controversy other than American occupation of nations i...more
I finally exhaled... it had been since last week when I finished Clash of Civilizations. My face has returned back to my shade of brown. Excellent read. Very accessible. Pick up a copy, start reading, let´s talk. "Not only must we learn to forget, we must also not forget to learn."
I'd like to read again, or parts of it again, now that I am out of an academic setting, to see how it applies to the practicalities of most work.
Dec 17, 2012 Jason added it
Shelves: read-2009
The beginning of this book would have the reader believe that it is going to talk about political Islam and the question of how 9/11 happened. It doesn't however. Instead it says, essentially, political Islam is not about terror and besides, you did it first.

While there are some insightful sections in this book about the difference of secularism in Islam vs secularism in Christianity, it is mostly about the proxy wars and CIA influence in the US since Vietnam. For those that aren't familiar with...more
Great Book. It did a great job of placing the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in historical perspective by connecting the dots from American clandestine interventions in Laos, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan (1980's). The American intelligence agencies privatized war by funding terrorists, gangs, warlords, and the like throughout the Cold War to defeat pro-Soviet regimes and "roll-back" the Soviet Union. One can view Al Qaeda as a product of this process, and the Afghanistan War as "Cold War cleanup". The...more
A tremendously articulate review of U.S. 'terrorism' as it rises in the name of "Low Impact Conflicts" in the Reagan era. Chillingly on the mark. An accounting that hasn't been acknowledged that MUST be 'out there' for all to consider. WE STARTED IT! That is, we are responsisble for the "War on Terror." 9/11 --as much as bin Ladin's people were responsible (an open question), was 'blowback.' And if you need a definition of 'blowback' read Chalmers Johnson.
There are some interesting parts, but his main ideas were more fully expanded in books like Legacy of Ashes, The Looming Tower, Orientalism and Sowing Crisis. Mamdani has moments, but for someone who went though a Hizballah appreciation phase 3 years ago, Mamdani's fawning repetition of Fanon and general Third World-ist view really does not provide a superior alternative. See Olivier Roy for why this book was not fantastic.
great book to read up on the political nature of islam. i felt somewhat lost at parts because i have no political background and little history background on some of the things he discussed. i felt that if i had more knowledge, i'd enjoy the book a lot more, since the chapters i did have previous knowledge of, were the ones i enjoyed the most out of this book.
May 02, 2007 Jordan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone concerned with identity politics and the politics of representation
Shelves: americanislam
Brilliant analysis of how political zeal and religious piety are wrongly mixed thus creating a distorted understanding of Muslim grievances toward the US and former colonial powers.
Excellent read!

Very insightful for those who would like to learn more about the history of terrorism, and the US's involvement in created the terrorists of today.
Ashley Willis
This book gets a little technical at times, but I think everyone who wants to get a feel for all perspectives of terrorism should read this book.
You have concentrate quite hard to read this book to follow Mamdani's arguments, but I found, in the end, it was worth it. Mamdani tells a complex story, that pulls together recent history in a cohesive explanation of the emergence of terrorism. He explains how Vietnam, the Nicaraguan revolution, South African apartheid, the Iranian revolution, the Cold War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iraq/Iran war, Jerry Falwell and the American Christian Right,the American relationship with Israel...more
Not quite what I expected, although now that I've read this, the title fits.

The author makes the case that America caused terrorism through the actions of the CIA from the Vietnam era up to present day. The CIA is responsible for setting up terror training camps, hijacking the idea of jihad into a religious holy war, all in the name of fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan and throughout Africa. The author also accuses the CIA of financing all its operations by inflating narcotics production throu...more
Good Muslim, Bad Muslim is a book about the world before and after 9/11. Mahmood Mamdani talks about the cause and effect of the cold war on foreign policy in America and then the policy change after 9/11. Mamdani makes great points in this book and I actually learned alot from reading. He does blame the U.S and Israel with some of the problems but he doesn't do it without evidence. He provides many examples and a very different viewpoint. I appreciated his new take on suicide bombers but also m...more
Arthur Kyriazis
This book is for the author is superb I recommend it highly to everyone. It is an informed and well-written look at the issues of the Middle East as well as a learned and well-written book
"After an unguarded reference to pursuing a "crusade," President Bush moved to distinguish between "good Muslims" and "bad Muslims." From this point of view, "bad Muslims" were clearly responsible for terrorism. At the same time, the president seemed to assure Americans that "good Muslims" were anxious to clear their names and consciences of this horrible crime and would undoubtedly support "us" in a war against "them." But this could not hide the central message of such discourse: unless proved...more
Leonel Caraciki
Interessante na sua tese sobre a inabilidade do discurso político ocidental de categorizar a relação entre o Islã e as praticas políticas da modernidade devido ao desenvolvimento histórico desta religião ser diferente dos caminhos históricos do cristianismo e das estruturas de poder do Ocidente; mas profundamente digressivo ao tentar historicizar o envolvimento dos EUA na criação dos braços armados do Islã político radical, se perdendo em um emaranhado de acusações e denuncismo vulgar. As fontes...more

Incredibly detailed, well researched book that covers a bit of political science, journalism, history and cultural studies.

Mamdani does a great job historizicing 9/11 and the resulting terror narrative of the bush years that still influences American politics and international policy today. The book goes a long way in helping readers develop a more profound understanding of the who, when, where and how... yielded that historical moment and the responses to it as well.

Great book... recommend it!
Bin Laden has the distinction of being created by the CIA but wanted by the FBI

The book brings up great points but you will be sorely disappointed if you hope the author will ever define terrorism at any point in the book. Not an introductory book by any means but fantastic if you are looking to delve deeply into pre-existing concepts and knowledge. Will provide you with extensive historical context.
This is quite the Bush-era relic. There's a definite hidden agenda here, and a predictable bias toward blaming the US and Israel for all the world's problems. No surprises here, and nothing you haven't heard a zillion times before. Skip this one and pick up Wright's The Looming Tower instead.
Another book everyone should read. This is a re-account of the events of the Cold war, focusing less on the theoretical battles between the United States and the Soviet Union, and more on those happening in South Asia, Midwest Africa, the Middle East, and Central America. Read this book!
May 28, 2008 Debbie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in global politics, the war on terrorism, and american foreign policy
This book is a great overview of the United State's use of state terror. Mamdani begins with Vietnam, illustrating how engineering and supporting state terror evolved throughout the Cold War. The book is well-researched, and is written for a popular audience.
This is a very important book.
Apr 17, 2008 Drew added it
Shelves: non-fiction
Unfinished...Lost interest in the second chapter when it became a long diagnosis of US and CIA intervention around the world during and after the Cold War. No doubt this sets the stage for the central theme of political Islam, but I just lost interest.
Mamdani paints the truest picture of American-Muslim relations. This historical work shows how the US has meddled with Middle Eastern affairs since the Cold War. This book breaks the chain of lies that the media/White House tend to perpetuate.
I hardly remember this very well, all I remember is that it was super interesting and for one of my best classes, US and the World 1945 to the Present. I'll have to reread it when I have the chance!
Brilliant analysis of how political zeal and religious piety are wrongly mixed thus creating a distorted understanding of Muslim grievances toward the US and former colonial powers.
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“I have written this book with the conviction that the response to injury does not have to be vengeance and that we need to distinguish between revenge and justice. A response other than revenge is possible and desirable. For that to happen, however, we need to turn the moment of injury into a moment of freedom, of choice. For Americans, that means turning 9/11 into an opportunity to reflect on America's place in the world. Grief for victims should not obscure the fact that there is no choice without a debate and no democracy without choice.” 0 likes
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