ANALYSIS: Statement By U.S. Academic Reveals Shortcoming Of Social Scientists


In a recent interview Jytte Klausen, a well-known sociologist and professor of comparative politics at Brandeis University, made a simple statement which illustrates the limitations of social scientists in reporting on covert groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Klausen, a prominent expert on Islam, responded to the following question:

QUESTION: I assume that most of the interviews you conducted were with Muslim political leaders. How can you be sure that what you’re being told reflects how they feel rather than how they think you want them to respond? How can you be sure that what they’re saying reflects the views of the vast majority of Muslims who are not leaders, but rather working-class immigrants?

JYTTE KLAUSEN: People had very little reason not to share their views with me

Although the question did not involved the Brotherhood per se, the response is indicative of the mindset of social scientists who often rely on interviews with Islamists such as Brotherhood leaders in order to make conclusions about their views. A recent post has discussed an example by another U.S. academic who evaluated the views of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders using such interviews. A seeming inability to consider the possibility that the subjects may indeed have very good reason not to share their real views is something that needs to be taken into account when considering the findings of academics on anything relating to the Muslim Brotherhood.

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