Mustafa Akyol Image from Wikimedia Commons

Mustafa Akyol
Image from Wikimedia Commons

A good friend of mine was giving me his opinion about world affairs.  “It is heartbreaking that so many soldiers go into harm’s way, get wounded and killed, just trying to protect children from insane people.  American soldiers will go into Iraq and stand guard around schools their friends have built, protecting the children inside from snipers – snipers who sometimes are related to the children going to the school!  The US, the UK, all these other countries should not have to police the world from crazies who call themselves Muslim!  We should be policing ourselves!”

Yes, my friend is a Shi’a Muslim, emigrating here to the US to escape oppression and injustice – from other Shi’a.  Muslims in the US are horrified by terrorism the same as anyone else, and came to this country to flee the atrocities we read about regularly.  “The biggest problem is we don’t complain about our own!”  Me friend went on, “Muslims have a history of closing ranks and shielding each other from those who are different, regardless of the twisting of religion these others do.  Those who commit violence in the Name of Allah can no longer be called Muslim, but we have a huge cultural momentum to protect them.  It makes me sick.  Young American men and women should be in college and starting families, not policing what we should police ourselves!”

This view and others like it is not well represented in the national media, but is swelling in strength.  In a series of congressional hearings, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca testified that 7 of 10 recently foiled terrorist plots in the US were stopped specifically by Muslims reporting on those who claimed Islam, but who chose a path of violence.  Although imams like Fethullah Gulen and Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri of Minaj USA have issued fatwahs and numerous statements denouncing terrorism and all its attending behaviors, the voice of Muslims against violent “Jihadists” seems to be a soft one.  However, this is changing (Hadia Mubarak, Dean Obeidallah, and Imam Zaid Shakir are such voices, and William Saletan writes about others).

Another such voice of change is the respected journalist Mustafa Akyol.  He is an outspoken proponent of moderate Islam  and has spent his journalistic career speaking out against extremist Muslims, training his literary lenses on those who justify the use of violence to serve righteous ends.  The Qur’an states that if someone kills even one person, “it would be as if he slew the whole people (Qur’an 5:32).”

Mustafa Akyol (born 1972) is a Turkish writer and journalist.  He received his early education in Ankara, and graduated from the Istanbul Nisantasi Anadolu Lisesi and the International Relations Department of Bogazici University.  He earned his masters in the History Department of the same university with a thesis on Turkey’s Kurdish question, which he later extended to a popular book titled:  Rethinking the Kurdish Issue:  What Went Wrong, What Next?

Akyol writes regular columns for two Turkish dailies, Star and Hurriyet Daily News, and has written for Huffington Post.  He has criticized both Islamic extremism and Turkish secularism.

Over the years, he has given seminars in several universities and think-tanks in the US and the UK on issues of Islam, politics, and Turkish affairs.  he also spoke at TED, giving a lecture on Faith versus Tradition in Islam (link here).

Mustafa Akyol’s articles on Islamic issues, in which he mostly argues against Islamic extremism and terrorism from a Muslim point of view and defends the Islamic faith, have appeared in publications like Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Forward, First Things, Huffington Post, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Times, The American Enterprise, National Review, FrontPage Magazine, Newsweek, and Islam Online.

Akyol is also author of the English-language book Islam Without Extremes:  A Muslim Case for Liberty (link here).  This, according to the publisher, is “a desperately needed intellectual basis for the reconcilability of Islam and religious, political, economic, and social freedoms.”

(Bio gleaned from Wikipedia)

Mr. Akyol will be traveling from Turkey to speak at the invitation of some friends of mine, Pacifica Institute Utah, on November 10 later this year.  It will be invigorating listening to a voice my friend has been longing to hear, and he will certainly receive a warm welcome by people of all faiths.

2012 inside LA