It seems I wasn’t exactly clear in my post where I argued that there is lots of diversity among “Islamists.”
Ideofact writes about some statements and ideas of al-Ghannouchi which do seem quite bad to me. My point in my previous post was not to defend al-Ghannouchi or Fazlur Rahman or anyone for that matter. As a secular Muslim [what is that? —- ed. It means I am secular and would in fact like a more secular US, but at the same time I identify as a Muslim rather than an agnostic or atheist etc.], I have obviously some fundamental disagreements with anyone who wants religion (Islam or any other) to have a place in the political sphere.
My point was simply that we, and I include myself, people in the west as well as the Muslim world here, have a habit of sometimes conflating all Muslims together. Or at least considering all religion-based politics as equally bad. That is not the case. There are some pretty bad groups, some are less bad and some have some redeeming qualities/ideas. For example, I think the Justice and Development Party currently in power in Turkey has been a good positive development for that country. I also think that Algeria would have been better off with an FIS government in the early 1990s than the military coup and the civil war with the extremist groups that it actually experienced.
Ideofact also gives examples of fascism and communism as reasons for considering all Islamists together.
While there were variations among German, Italian and Spanish fascism, or Soviet, Chinese and Yugosalvian communism, that all these systems are illiberal, that the only difference is how heavy is the one wearing the boot while standing on your face.
This comparison depends on how widely you are casting the net for Islamists. For example, a number of people consider Alija Izetbegovich, the former Prime Minister of Bosnia, as an Islamist politician as well. Bill, on the other hand, has written glowingly about the guy on his old blog, Paleo-Ideofact. [I think Bill and I agree much more than disagree on this whole issue, but what’s the fun in agreeable blogging.]
As a secular guy, it is also not my purpose to decide which religious group is good or bad. However, as I argued in a post about secularism and the Middle East, we need to focus on specific actions rather than condemning all of political Islam. For better or worse, religion does play a large role in the lives of many people around the world. And there are a lot of things happening in the Muslim world with both positive and negative consequences. As Thebit points out, we sometimes blame everything on the “Wahabbis” and consider the traditionalists as the good guys. However, traditionalists are also responsible for a lot of bad stuff, like superstitious beliefs, cooperation with authoritarianism, etc.
On the other side, a lot of Muslims don’t like criticism of bad Muslim behavior by others. That is a wrong attitude. Criticism is definitely something to be engaged with and not condemned outright. See, for example, posts by Ideofact, Muslims Under Progress and Avari-Nameh on the criticism of the Muslim world by the former Archbishop of Canterbury.