This paper aims at establishing an Arab epistemological reference framework for studying political Islam and identifying some new research themes related to the topic. This initial effort in this direction is modelled as an open epistemological dialogue because the author is keen to improve this reference framework. He also wants to ensure that it keeps pace with the developments related to Islamism, which need to be continuously and thoroughly analyzed using up-to-date methods of scientific research.
The paper proposes that the Arab epistemological reference framework for studying political Islam in detail should be guided by well-established principles of inquiry, beginning with a clear differentiation between Islam and Islamism. The other principles to be followed are:
- a critical approach,
- a documentary approach based on new documents,
- an interdisciplinary approach,
- an applied approach that relies on and develops Mohammed Arkoun’s applied Islamic studies,
- due consideration of the foundational texts when analyzing Islamism,
- a critical approach to Islamism-sympathetic literature in international academia,
- a comparative historical approach to ideas,
- a post-colonial approach that avoids the traps of post-colonialism and
- a reflexive approach
The paper also suggests the following research themes for a comprehensive understanding of political Islam:
- Islam and Islamism,
- political Islam between power and opposition,
- Islamist discourse, modernity and co-existence values,
- the Islamists’ discourses and practices from a comparative perspective,
- Islamism in international relations,
- Islamism and security issues,
- Islamism and economics,
- Islamism and violence,
- Islamism and the concept of the other and
- the future of Islamism.
Finally, applied Islamist studies do not aim to marginalize other approaches to the study of Islamism and cannot do so. They merely propose a critical interdisciplinary approach to analyzing the phenomenon of Islamism that avoids what we call “scientific imperialism” (considering that there is only one correct interpretation, and all other interpretations are wrong) as well as avoids nihilistic relativism (not falling into a kind of radical pacifism based on the idea of nihilistic relativism, in the sense of equating interpretations regardless of how serious they are).
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