Wellesley College Lecture: Trump, Populism, and Muslims

Mustafa Akyol (born 1972) is a Turkish writer and journalist. He is the author of Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, long-listed in 2012 for the Lionel Gelber Prize, a literary award for the world’s best non-fiction book in English. He became a contributing opinion writer for the International New York Times in 2013. Akyol is a supporter of a liberal interpretation of Islam.[1]

Akyol was born to journalist Taha Akyol and received his early education in Ankara.[2] He later graduated from the Istanbul Nişantaşı Anadolu Lisesi and the International Relations Department of Boğaziçi 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 Kürt Sorununu Yeniden Düşünmek: Yanlış Giden Neydi, Bundan Sonra Nereye? (Rethinking the Kurdish Issue: What Went Wrong, What Next?)

Akyol writes regular columns for both the online news site Al-Monitor and the Turkish daily Hürriyet Daily News.[3] He has criticized both Islamic extremism and Turkish secularism, which he likens to Jacobinism[4] and fundamentalism.[5] Over the years, he has given seminars at different platforms, in numerous universities or think-tanks around the world on issues of Islam, politics, and Turkish affairs. He also spoke at TED, giving a lecture on Faith versus Tradition in Islam.[6]

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 such as Foreign AffairsThe Wall Street JournalWashington PostThe ForwardFirst ThingsHuffington PostThe Weekly StandardThe Washington TimesThe American EnterpriseNational ReviewFrontPage Magazine,[7] Newsweek[8] and Islam Online.[9]

Akyol authored the English-language book, Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty, which, according to its publisher, is “a desperately needed intellectual basis for the reconciliability of Islam and religious, political, economic, and social freedoms”. Stephen Suleyman Schwartz critiques the author’s lack of full disclosure regarding his own family’s Turkish history and involvement in politics. He also faults the author for not carefully laying out the facts surrounding Turkish democracy and rushing to conclusions about the country’s AKP political party that are not fully supported by the evidence.[10][11]

Suggested reading

Islam: A Totalitarian Philosophy or One Teaching at a Time?

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