Islamist soft power is highly influential in academia where it has become paradigmatic that it is ostensibly intrinsically “Islamophobic” to oppose or even criticize the modern totalitarian political ideology of Islamism. Modern political Islam generally opposes all public criticism of any aspect of what is perceived as “Islam” and it is hard to see how such totalitarian claims are compatible with open society. Traditional Islam in contrast is based on vigorous religious discussion with room for a wide spectrum of religious opinions.
The power of academic pro-Islamists to shape academic views on Islamism has significantly undercut international policy making in the cold war with Islamism and Jihadism. Islamist academics and their non-Islamist academic paradigmatic collaborators have sown widespread confusion about the nature and character of the modern totalitarian political ideology of Islamism whose political program is totalitarian imposition of theocracy. Various binaries regarding Islamists have been deployed such as modern/anti-modern, law-abiding/terrorist and pragmatic/radical. It is true that there are nuances in approach and rhetoric between and within Islamist organizations but Islamist organizations are remarkably homogenous in being united in their common goal of totalitarian theocracy. They disagree about the tactics and the rhetoric, that is true, but they are remarkably unanimous about the nature and character of the utopian totalitarian society which they would like to create.
There is much need to bring about a new pro-democratic paradigm in academia regarding the subject of Islamism and which would reject Islamism as antithetical to academic freedom, open society and liberal democracy. Governments should first of all recognize the problem of Islamist infiltration in and Islamist subversion of academia and move to provide generous scholarships to doctoral students with different different perspectives. It is necessary to develop a new generation of scholars on Islamdom that can provide more nuanced perspectives as alternatives to viewpoints of collaborators with totalitarianism.