Look Inside. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim is a provocative and important book that will profoundly change our understanding both of Islamist politics and the way America is perceived in the world today. The era of proxy wars has come to an end with the invasion of Iraq. And there, as in Vietnam, America will need to recognize that it is not fighting terrorism but nationalism, a battle that cannot be won by occupation. Mahmood Mamdani was born in Kampala, Uganda.
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He received his Ph. In he presented one of the nine papers that were delivered at the Nobel Peace Prize Centennial Symposium. In your previous work - both in Citizen and Subject and When Victims Become Killers - you have emphasized the need to understand the form of the postcolonial state.
Since decolonization occurred several decades ago in much of Asia and Africa, why do you think it is important to continue talking about the legacy of the colonial state?
What might such an understanding illuminate about the present political configuration in much of the Third World? There is a big debate on this issue in the study of Africa, more or less along the lines in which you frame your question.
The two sides of the debate are represented by the Nigerian historian Ajayi and the Congolese philosopher Mudimbe. Ajayi is an older historian who started writing in the late colonial period, and got better known in the early postcolonial period. He wrote several articles arguing that colonialism was a short interlude in the tapestry of African history which stretches over millennia, and sooner or later, we will see colonialism as nothing but a beep against this massive backdrop.
In fact, he suggested, the quicker we begin to move away from thinking about colonialism, the freer we will be of the colonial hold. Mudimbe's book, The Invention of Africa , does not respond directly to Ajayi, does not even mention him, but his position is completely different, indeed contrary, to Ajayi's. Mudimbe's argument is that it is not the duration of colonial influence that is relevant, but its depth and its texture.
Mudimbe speaks of its ideological texture, but I would add also its institutional texture. So long as we keep on living our institutional lives within the institutions crafted in the colonial period, our lives will continue to be shaped by the colonial legacy even a thousand years from now.
Probably the best examples of this are the radical political revolutions in colonial Africa, like the Hutu Revolution of in Rwanda, which were determined to redress the grievances of the colonial period in a radical way. In doing so - in the particular instance of Rwanda, redressing the history of Tutsi privilege and Hutu servitude - they ended up entrenching the colonially crafted identities of Hutu as native and Tutsi as civilizing Hamites coming from outside.
Even though the history of Tutsi privilege had long predated Belgian colonialism, the notion that this privilege could be justified as the prerogative of civilizing foreign Hamites was a colonial invention which the Tutsi elite swallowed along with colonial petty privilege. Ironically, the Hutu elite in the Rwandan revolution of also confirmed Hutu as "native" and Tutsi as "alien". It turned the pursuit of justice into a vendetta. In doing so, it turned the world of Hutu and Tutsi upside down, but without changing it.
The ironic result was to further entrench political identities crafted under colonial rule by embedding these in the political legacy of the postcolonial revolution. You have said elsewhere that, "[P]ostcolonial studies brings home the fact that intellectual decolonization will require no less than an intellectual movement to achieve this objective.
How does this differ from formal, political decolonization, and what is its import? We have learnt through experience that political decolonization cannot be complete without an intellectual paradigm shift, which is what I mean by intellectual decolonization.
In other words, by "intellectual decolonization" what I have in mind is thinking the present in the context of a past. Unlike radical political economy, though, the past needs to be thought through deeper than simply the colonial period. One unfortunate tendency of radical political economy was that it tended to reduce the usable past to the colonial period.
We should recognize that the various forms of nativism around the postcolonial world - from racialized Black nationalism to ethnicized nationalisms to religious Muslim and Hindu nationalism, what we tend to call "fundamentalisms" these days - have been the first to raise this question.
They are the ones who have accused self-declared modernist intellectuals of being nothing but a pale reflection of their colonial masters. They have emphasized the necessity to link up with the historicity of their respective societies. The only problem is that they rule out the colonial period as an artificial imposition, as a departure from an authentic history.
Preoccupied with a search for and a return to origins, they tend to freeze the past in the pre-colonial period. This search also determines their notion of the colonial period: the Hutu nationalists think of the colonial period as the period prior to Tutsi migration, and the Hindu nationalists tend to think of it as the period prior to the Turkish invasions and the Islamic conversions. As a result, they underestimate - or sometimes fail to understand fully - the present by ignoring how the institutional and intellectual legacy of colonialism tends to be reproduced in the present.
I do acknowledge the importance of the nativist critique that calls for a fuller grasp of historicity, but one also needs to understand its weakness, because its sense of historicity is compromised by its search for authenticity. The point is not to just to sidestep the nativist critique but to sublate it, in the manner in which Engels understood sublating Hegel in his critique of Ludwig Feuerbach; to take into consideration that which is relevant, effective and forceful in the critique but at the same time to break away from its preoccupation with origins and authenticity.
You begin your book, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror , with a discussion of Fanon and his insistence that the proof of the native's humanity consisted not in the willingness to kill settlers in a colonial context, but in the willingness to risk his or her own life.
Are you suggesting that we should read contemporary acts of terrorism in a colonial frame, or at the very least as the violence of yesterday's victims, of victims who have become killers? To understand terrorism, we need to go beyond self-defense, beyond the violence of liberation movements, beyond the violence of anti-colonial struggles and liberation movements. To understand non-state terror today, we need to understand the historical relationship between state terrorism and non-state terrorism.
There is a clear and discernible historical dynamic: during the Cold War, state terror has been parent to non-state terror and, having given rise to non-state terror, it has then proceeded to mimic it - as, for instance, in the "War against Terror". Fanon of course was not talking just about terror. Fanon was primarily talking about the relation between political violence and political modernity, between violence and freedom, so that those convinced that freedom was a value higher than life were willing to sacrifice life for freedom.
Fanon went beyond Hegel. Modern man - and woman - is not simply willing to die for a cause higher than life, as Hegel said. He and she, for Fanon, is also willing to kill for that cause. These two aspects of our political modernity seem to come together in the suicide bomber.
The suicide bomber, however, has been widely understood in the western media as a throwback to pre-modernity, either as adult irrationality or as a response of adolescents coerced by patriarchal authority. I think this explanation may be too easy and too self-serving. The reality is more likely the opposite; the suicide bomber is more likely born of a youth revolt than of patriarchal authority.
The suicide bomber comes out of the history of the Intifadah. Both were testimony to youth revolts on two fronts: against both external authority - such as the apartheid or the Zionist order - and the internal authority of the generation of their parents, a generation they saw as having capitulated to external authority by accepting the conditions of apartheid and occupation as normal. It is not very different from American youth during the civil rights and the anti-war movement of the s.
This is how I recall Bob Dylan's ode to the youth of the '60s:. The point about the Vietnam War is that it ended, and so did apartheid with the end of the Cold War. The only thing that has not ended is the occupation in Palestine. Instead, it has turned into what Bush called "facts on the ground", a brutal reality.
The failure of the older generation to find a humane alternative in Palestine in part explains the desperation of the younger generation, resorting to violence in politics. Even then, we need to recognize that the term suicide bomber is a misnomer. The suicide bomber is a category of soldier whose objective is to kill - even if he or she must die to kill. You repeatedly emphasize the importance of distinguishing between cultural or religious identity - what you call Culture Talk - and political identity.
Why is this distinction necessary to understanding present debates regarding terrorism? To what extent does Culture Talk enable violence against particular peoples?
It is essential to make this distinction in an era of nationalism and the nation-state; in other words, in an era where the claim that cultural communities should be self-determining - meaning they should have their own state with the "self" in self-determination a cultural self - is considered obvious and normal, something which does not require an explanation.
It is important to recognize that the raw material of political identities may be taken from the cultural sphere - common language, common religion, and so on - but once these identities are crafted into political identities, enforced within a territorial state, and reproduced through the mechanism of the law, which in turn recognizes its bearers as particular subjects, then identity becomes rather more complicated.
It becomes extremely important to distinguish between political and cultural identity because political identity, unlike cultural identity, as enforced by the state through law, is singular, it is uni-dimensional: "You are this and nothing else.
It may have a territorial resonance, but it is not reducible to a territorial dimension nor is it reducible to power. Political identity, on the contrary, is enforced through law and is an effect of power. I would even go further and say that, even in the case of resistance, its starting point is none other than political identities reproduced through the legal regime. This is notwithstanding the fact that there is a world of difference between resistance that reproduces political identities, whether in the name of reform or revenge, and resistance that sublates the political order by forging new political identities.
Could you explain the origins of the title, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim? Is it not the case that the US - or the West generally - should be supporting moderate, secular forces within the Muslim world to counteract extremist, fundamentalist currents? Even when Bush speaks of "good" Muslims and "bad" Muslims, what he means by "good" Muslims is really pro-American Muslims and by "bad" Muslims he means anti-American Muslims.
Once you recognize that, then it is no longer puzzling why good Muslims are becoming bad Muslims at such a rapid rate. You can actually begin to think through that development. If, however, you think of "good" and "bad" Muslims in cultural terms, it is mind-boggling that in one week, you can have a whole crop of "bad" Muslims - cultural changes do not usually happen with such rapidity!
But if you have the aerial bombing of Falluja and the targeting of civilian populations accused of hosting "bad" Muslims, then you harvest an entire yield of bad Muslims at the end of the day, and the whole phenomenon becomes slightly less puzzling.
This is connected to my claim that political identities are not reducible to cultural identities. Political Islam, especially radical political Islam, and even more so, the terrorist wing in radical political Islam, did not emerge from conservative, religious currents, but on the contrary, from a secular intelligentsia.
In other words, its preoccupation is this -worldly, it is about power in this world. To take only the most obvious example: I am not aware of anyone who thinks of bin Laden as a theologian; he is a political strategist and is conceived of in precisely such terms. Of course, part of his strategy is employing a particular language through which he addresses specific audiences. Why do you insist on using the term "political Islam" rather than the more common "Islamic fundamentalism"?
Do the two not gesture at the same phenomenon? I have doubts about the use of the term "fundamentalism" outside of the context in which it arises, which is the Christian context. My real discomfort with using the two interchangeably - political Islam and Islamic fundamentalism - is that "fundamentalism" is a cultural phenomenon and I want to zero-in on a political phenomenon.
Even in the history of American Christianity, Christian fundamentalism is a turn-of-the-century movement which was the result of battles fought out in all kinds of institutions, including schools and courts.
But the decision by a group of Christian fundamentalist intellectuals to cross the boundary between the religious and the secular and to move into the political domain, to organize with an eye on political power, is only a post-World War II phenomenon.
I distinguish between Christian fundamentalism, an end-ofth century counter-cultural movement and political Christianity, a post-Second World War political movement.
I also do not identify the mixing of religion and politics as necessarily retrogressive. One only needs to understand the many forms of post-war political Christianity, from the involvement of Black churches in the civil rights movement to that of Jerry Falwell's Christian right, to get to a more nuanced understanding of religiously informed politics.
One also needs to recognize that the history of Christianity is very unlike the history of mainstream Islam which simply does not have an institutionally organized church. The Catholic Church is organized as an institutionalized hierarchy, as a prototype of the empire-state, and the Protestant Church hierarchy is organized as a prototype of the nation-state. Until Ayatollah Khomeini created a state-wide clerical authority in Iran, there was no such institutionalized religious hierarchy in Islam and it still does not exist elsewhere.
Without the existence of an institutionalized religious hierarchy parallel to a state hierarchy, the question of the proper relation between two domains of power, that of the organized church and the organized state, a central question in Western secularism, has been a non-question in Islam - at least until Ayatollah Khomeini created a constitutional theocracy in Iran as vilayat-i-faqih.
Now with Iraq very much in the throes of resistance, there is an entirely different notion of Iraqi Shi'ism articulated by Sistani. His is a critique of Khomeini; Sistani's is a secular, religious perspective.
His view is that Shi'a clerics are scholars; they should be the conscience of society, not the wielders of state power. So when political Islam develops - unlike political Christianity - it is not the result of the movement of religious intellectuals into a secular domain but rather the reverse move, that of secular intellectuals into the religious domain.
Good Muslim, Bad Muslim