Writing in the Canadian Journal Academic Matters, global Muslim Brotherhood leader Tariq Ramadan complains that the field of Islamic studies is obsessed with “the struggle against ‘radicalization and terrorism’ ” He writes:
Islamic Studies are directly or indirectly involved as part of an attempt to understand and to prevent, to protect ourselves, to dominate, and even to fight should the adversary be violent Islamism. As a consequence, sociologists, political scientists, and terrorism experts churn out a mind-numbing volume of research on Islam, on Muslims, on identity, immigration, Islamism, radicalization, violence, terrorism, and so on. Some of their work may be commissioned by governmental agencies and some by major corporations. Such subjects are seen as being of immediate concern and receive multi-million dollar funding. Today, like yesterday, research is fueled by self-interest. The first difficulty to arise from this carefully orchestrated infatuation with Islamic Studies (and which may well be the major obstacle to be overcome) is the fact that it reduces several centuries of the Islamic legal heritage (fiqh), studies of the creed (‘aqîda), philosophical progress (kalam), mystical thought (sûfi), and social and political inquiry (siyâsa shar’iyya) to elementary, contemporary surveys of political ideologies, migrations, and social movements.
He goes on to argue that instead, there should be a focus on the variety of the movements within political Islam to include “legalist or pro-democracy movements” which he contrast to “violent and literalist movements” :
The speech and actions of today’s violent Islamists are the windows through which the Islamic heritage and Islamic scholars are re-read and evaluated. Such an approach is neither serious nor academic, yet it is a recurring figure in research studies. We must also insist on a historical perspective on the variants of political Islam (from movements reminiscent of liberation theology to violent and literalist movements, by way of legalist or pro-democracy movements, not at all unlike trends in Christianity and Judaism) ; and on the internal development of these movements (in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Indonesia, for example).
Presumably, Ramadan includes the Muslim Brotherhood as one of the legalist /pro-democracy movements to be juxtaposed with violent/literalist movements. Ramadan’s argument is simply another attempt to argue that the Muslim Brotherhood and its variants should be viewed differently from groups such as Al Qaeda. Previous posts have reviewed writings by analysts that argue that the distinction is one of tactics but not strategy. Ramadan himself is an extremely important figure within the Global Muslim Brotherhood network, perhaps best described as an independent power base with sufficient stature as the son of Said Ramadan, and the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood to challenge positions taken by important Brotherhood leaders. His statements and writings have been extensively analyzed and he has been accused by critics of promoting anti-Semitism and fundamentalism, albeit by subtle means. On the other hand, his supporters promote him as as example of an Islamic reformer who is in the forefront of developing a “Euro Islam