On Blasphemy, Bigotry and the Politics of Culture Talk

In a book that I wrote in 2004 titled Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, I began with two propositions: that every culture, without exception, is historical; and that cultures do not grow in separate containers called civilizations. The claim that they should be seen as a part of an attempt to politicize culture, that is, to harness culture to a political project. My focus then was on the period that led to 9/11. My object will be to advance two further arguments. One, the continuing “clash of civilizations”- including its distinctive European version- is better understood not as a defense civilization but as the ideological arm of a larger political project, the War on Terror. And two, for those interested in developing an effective counter to hate movements organized as political projects, I suggest developing an intellectual and political, rather than a legal, strategy.