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Mustafa Akyol

Senior Fellow, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute

Mustafa Akyol is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, where he focuses on the intersection of public policy, Islam, and modernity. Since 2013, he has also been a frequent opinion writer for The New York Times, covering politics and religion in the Muslim world. He is the author of Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance (2021), “Why, As A Muslim, I Defend Liberty” (2021), The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims (2017), and Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty (2011).“The Thinking Muslim,” a popular podcast, defined Akyol as “probably the most notable Muslim modernist and reformer.” In July 2021, the Prospect magazine of the UK also listed him among “The world’s top 50 thinkers.”

Akyol’s seminal book, Reopening Muslim Minds, has been excerpted or reviewed in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist, Los Angeles Book Review, Friday Times (Pakistan), and various other publications across the Muslim world. His earlier book, Islam without Extremes was praised by the Wall Street Journal, acclaimed by Financial Times as “a forthright and elegant Muslim defense of freedom,” and was longlisted for the 2012 Lioner Gelber Prize, a literary award for the world’s best non‐​fiction book in English. It has been published in Turkish, Malay, Indonesian, and unofficially in Urdu. (It was subsequently banned in Malaysia in 2017 after Akyol’s short arrest by the country’s “religion police” merely because Akyol delivered a public lecture defending religious freedom. The book’s banned Malay edition is now freely available on the Cato Institute website.)The Islamic Jesus also received praise from The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, National Catholic Reporter, America: The Jesuit Review, and has been published also in Turkish and Croatian.Before joining the Cato Institute in 2018, Akyol worked for more than a decade as an opinion columnist for two Turkish newspapers, Hurriyet Daily News and Star — until they were co‐​opted and transformed into pro‐​government propaganda outlets. His articles have also appeared in a wide range of other publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, Al​-Mon​i​tor​.com, First Things, The Forward, The Weekly Standard, The Financial Times, Prospect, The London Times, The Guardian, The Washington Times, and Pakistan’s The Dawn. He has appeared frequently on CNN, BBC, NPR, and Al‐​Jazeera English, and on prominent TV shows such as Fareed Zakaria GPS and HARDtalk. His 2011 TED talk on “Faith versus Tradition in Islam” has been watched by more than 1.2 million viewers.Akyol is also the author of six books originally written in Turkish, including Rethinking the Kurdish Question (2006), and the co‐​authored Ethical Capitalism (2012).

Akyol has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in Ottoman history from the Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey. Throughout the past decade he gave regular lectures at the Nato Defense College and Acton University, in addition to many talks on campuses and public venues in the United States and around the world. In 2017, he was also a senior visiting fellow at the Freedom Project at Wellesley College.


1. Is Islam Compatible with Freedom?
2. What Jesus Can Teach Today’s Muslims
3. How Islamists are Ruining Islam
4. A Muslim reads Abraham Kuyper’s ‘On Islam’

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Mustafa Akyol
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