Born in 1942, Mohammed Ayoob is a Muslim of Indian descent. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Hawaii, and currently serves as a Professor Emeritus of International Relations at James Madison College (where he is coordinator of the Muslim Studies Program) and at Michigan State University (where he has taught in the Department of Political Science since 1990). Over the course of his professional career, Ayoob has authored, co-authored, or edited 13 books and more than 90 papers chiefly concerning the intersection of religion and politics in the Muslim world.
Prior to his current appointments, Ayoob was a faculty member at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi (India) and the Australian National University in Canberra. In addition, he has held visiting appointments at Brown, Columbia, Oxford, and Princeton Universities, and at Bilkent University in Turkey. Moreover, Ayoob has been awarded fellowships and grants by the Ford, MacArthur, Rockefeller, and Michigan State University Foundations, as well as by the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore and the East-West Center in Honolulu.
Ayoob has also served as a consultant to the Ford Foundation; the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty; and the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (appointed by the United Nations Secretary General).
One of Ayoob’s chief objectives is to debunk what he describes as Westerners’ misconceptions about the Muslim faith, namely the notion that Islam is “monolithic [and] violent, and [that] the intermingling of religion and politics is unique to Islam.” Ayoob contends that violence is just one of a number of tools that Islamists employ to achieve their goals. He explains, for instance, that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has channeled its own political activism into various “parliamentary, democratic, and constitutional means [that are] available to them.”
According to Ayoob, the Islamic world’s anti-Americanism is rooted not in aggression but rather in a “quest for dignity.” “For most Muslims,” he says, “the antipathy [toward] America is based on America’s foreign policy, especially the blatant uses of double standards in relation to the Middle East.”
In the 1990s Ayoob helped develop the theory of “subaltern realism,” a perspective which holds that Third World countries, because they are comparatively weak and reliant upon external support (economically and militarily), tend to focus more on relative gains and short-term benefits than do industrialized nations. This theory attempts to shed light on what motivates the actions of Third World states and their leaders.
On September 11, 2007, Ayoob spoke at a Michigan State University event titled “Hope Not Hate: The Future of U.S.-Muslim World Relations.” Co-sponsored by the University’s Muslim Students Association and Americans for Informed Democracy, this event aimed to develop “a comprehensive strategy towards more positive relations between the United States and the Muslim World, instead of relations based on fear and misunderstanding.” Other guest speakers included Shereef Akeel and Rosina Hassoun.
In a 2011 article, Ayoob complained that “very little attention has been paid to Palestinian rights,” the “continued occupation and dispossession” to which they are subjected by Israel, and “their search for dignity as a people.”
Ayoob revisited this theme in April 2014 when he charged that Arab-israeli peace negotiations “are failing for several reasons, beginning with Israel’s continued colonization of lands [it] occupied in 1967, despite opposition from the international community, including the U.S.” He likewise impugned both Israel and the United States for their “refusal to accept Hamas’s victory in the 2006 election and [to] recognize the group as the legitimate Palestinian representative.”
Ayoob praises “Marxian literature” for recognizing that “in order to attack hunger” and the plight of “the poor and the downtrodden” wherever they may be, “one must address the issue of inequality” that defines “the relationship of domination and subordination” that exists “in human societies” across the globe. Specifically, he calls for a remaking of the “social structures that perpetuate social and economic inequality”—i.e., capitalism.