In Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal (Vol 96, 2013, No. 4, pp. 431-449), published by Pennsylvania State University Press, Tibi lays out his fundamental critique of the dominating narrative in Western Islamic Studies.


This article operates on the distinction between Islamism and Islam and asks questions about how this is handled in Western studies. Islam is a religion and a civilization that deserves respect, while Islamism is a political ideology to be subjected to critical inquiry. The article is based on the enlightened Muslim thought that dissociates Islamic faith from its use as a legitimation in politics. The article shares also the dismissal of orientalism and Islamophobia, but it is critical of the instrumental use of both to silence criticism, as well as their reversal into the other extreme of an orientalism in reverse (Islamophilia). I argue that the prevailing analysis in Western scholarship on Islam not only ignores the distinction between Islamism and Islam but also falls into the trap of this reversal. The article discusses Islamism and Islamist movements that succeeded in hijacking the Arab Spring in the pursuit of a shari‘a state. The prevailing narrative not only fails to understand the Islamist shari‘atization of Islam, but also that Islamist shari‘a is neither Qur’anic shari‘a, nor classical shari‘a. I conclude with the presentation of Islamology and enlightened Muslim thought as alternative approaches for the study of Islamism, pleading for freedom of speech in this field of study.