Mustafa Akyol is a political commentator and author based in Istanbul, Turkey. Akyol, who is Turkish, writes extensively about Islam, the Middle East, democracy, and the West. His work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, and The Wall Street Journal. He will be in Oklahoma City this weekend, giving lectures at OU, OCU, and UCO, and promoting his book Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. The University of Oklahoma event will be different, inasmuch as it's sponsored jointly by The Institute of Interfaith Dialog and OU's Center for Middle East Studies. Akyol will focus on the war in Syria at the OU event. I interviewed him for an advance for the Oklahoma City University event for the Oklahoma Gazette. The transcript of the interview, which was conducted via email, is below.
What is the overarching thesis?
What will the Oklahoma events focus on?
Will you be discussing themes from your book as well as othermaterial? If so, what material?
This seems to be very timely given the American film and the subsequent violence. Can you talk just a bit about the disconnect between the West and our understanding of blasphemy and blasphemy laws?
How are blasphemy laws consistent with freedom of speech or expression or religion? Is there a common ground?
Do you find terms like Islamist, Christianist, etc., helpful? Why or why not?
The term "Islamist" is helpful, for it helps distinguish the people who have turned Islam into a political ideology from traditional Muslims who see Islam mainly as faith, worship and morality. As I show in my book, Islamism is in fact a 20th century phenomenon, and is actually a synthesis of Islam with modern totalitarian ideologies like communism. I, however, believe that we Muslims should better synthesize Islam with democracy and freedom. And this is really not as impossible as many think these days.