James Crossley has an essay for the Religion Bulletin which takes off thusly:
The recent debate sparked by Aaron Hughes’ response to Omid Safi’s article on the state of Islamic studies in North America has again prompted discussion of emic-etic tension, of whether scholars of religion are ‘critics’ or ‘caretakers’ (to use Russell McCutcheon’s terms). In the articles and in the comments section questions about the impact of September 11 on Islamic studies were raised, as well as contentious labelling of those undertaking the quest for the historical Muhammad as ‘Islamophobe’, ‘racist’, or ‘colonial invader’. ‘Carl’, commenting on Hughes’ article, suggested that such categorisations of those ‘whose sole “mistake” is to approach Muhammad as Albert Schweitzer did of Jesus in 1910’ were ‘unfair’ but ‘should certainly not be unexpected (we can ‘thank’ Edward Said for this). As such, the tension here is not simply religious, but political as well (if, indeed, the two are not, in reality, one).’
I cannot assess Carl’s claim for the simple reason that I lack familiarity with scholarship on Muhammad. But these issues are not restricted to Islamic studies, of course.
I can”t assess this essay or the field of comparative religion at all- so I’ll just mention it and leave it at that.