Is there really a clash of cultures?

Category: Americas, Nature & Science Channel: Opinion Views: 5293
5293

Six years after 9-11, why are we still talking about "Islam and the West"?

Islam is a religion, and the West is a geographical term. Why not juxtapose Islam and Christendom, given that both are religions that span many cultures? Or Middle East and the West, given that both are geographical entities?

Islam's 1.3 billion adherents stretch from Morocco to Indonesia, encompassing widely divergent cultures and beliefs. The West as a term of political geography is a remnant from the Cold War, when the West confronted the communist East.

Now it is not so much a place as a diverse set of political and economic ideas shared in various degrees from Japan to Latin America, not just in Europe and North America.
In fact, Islam and the West today are increasingly blended, not divided, because of globalization.

Islam in the West is commonplace, including a growing Muslim population with increasing numbers of mosques and hallal markets. Similarly, the West has penetrated deeply even into the cradle of Islam itself. McDonald's serves hallal hamburgers, not only at its three franchises in the holy city of Mecca but also at franchises in Michigan and London.

What does this blending mean for Samuel Huntington's famous theory about a "clash of civilizations" between Islam and the West?

Such a clash is hardly the predominant characteristic of the recent era of international relations.

Since 1945, more conflicts have erupted within civilizations than between them, and Christianity has been a more violent religion than Islam if judged by the number of conflicts.

Generally, civilizational differences seem to exacerbate other differences rather than provoke conflict. The sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Iraqis illustrates the point in the post-9-11 world.

Second, Islam and the West are not fated to clash. The diverse views within both Islam and the West provide scope for either reconciliation or conflict. The "sword" verses in the Quran are often used by both Islamists and their critics in the West to portray conflict as foreordained. I see a stronger argument in the "peace" verses of the Quran for reconciliation among the "people of the book" for those on either side who want it.

Third, we should not ignore the strong areas of cooperation. Those who focus on a clash of civilizations ignore the broad areas of cooperation in trade, energy, defense and even counterterrorism that mark relations between Islam and the West today. The Bush administration's pending $20 billion arms deal with our Persian Gulf allies is just one example.

Yes, there are differences between Islam and the West. Opinion polls highlight differences over issues like divorce, abortion, gender equality and gay rights. These differences characterize traditional societies in general and spill over into the West. The current split over gay issues within the Episcopal Church is an example.

Interestingly, support for democracy is higher among Arabs than in any other group, possibly because of their identification of democracy with economic well-being.

Surveys like the Pew Research Poll also show a decline in support for terrorism in Islamic countries. But that depends on where you live. Support remains high among Palestinians, but the jihadist campaign of al Qaeda is losing its appeal in Morocco, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries wracked by terrorism. In short, Osama bin Laden is no longer a street hero.

Six years after 9-11, there is a promising dialogue centering on Islamic issues. Within Islam, particularly among the Sunnis, the debate about ijtihad, or interpretation, has intensified. Muslims are seeking new answers to the abiding questions about Islam's place in the world, fueling a growth of Islamic feminism and advocacy of practical reforms as espoused in U.N. Arab Human Development Reports.

So what are the policy implications of the increasingly blended relations between Islam and the West?

For the United States to restore its credibility and influence in the Muslim world, we need to fill our front lines with diplomats who listen, not soldiers who shoot.

Allen Keiswetter is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute. 1761 N Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-2882 www.mideasti.org


  Category: Americas, Nature & Science  Channel: Opinion
Views: 5293


Related posts from similar channels:

 
COMMENTS DISCLAIMER & RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.


Older Comments:
ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
Mr Syyed Shah:

You write "Today no Hindu land is under Muslim occupation in South Asia. Infact it is Muslim land of Kashmir that is under Hindu occupation.".

Ah, But before coming of Islam, Afghanistan was Hindu territory; and so was (current) Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. But now, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are no longer ruled by Hindus. And that all due to 'civilizational clash' between muslims/Islam and Hinduism/Hindus. So, yes, muslims are ruling at least 1/3 of Hindu territory.

One must remember, without people there is no religion or civilization. So, one cannot separate Islam from Muslims and Hinduism from Hindus.
()

PROF.M.NYAMATHULLAH FROM INDIA said:
It is a well written article which compels acceptance and endorsement of the reader.
If one looks deep , he could not find many differences but points of agreement only, in both the religions.The 'hijab dress of a Muslim woman' is similar to that of Mother Mary and
catholic nuns.
As Muslims we have great regard for Isa alaihis salam as a prophet who preceded our own Prophet (SAWS).We are eagerly looking for his return to earth to set right things. so also the christians and the jews are. Why then we harp on our differences rather tahn join hands to explore common meeting ground?
()

MILGO FROM CANADA said:
The only think that i disagree with in this article is when the author state that there is rise in Islamic feminism. As a women, I belief that Islam has granted me my rights and I don't have to ask for rights from any man or government. I think we confuse male chauvisnism with lack of rights. I have never felt threatened in anyway when it comes to my rights as a Muslim women. All I have to do is refer to the Quran with those who try to deny me my rights if they are true believers. So, please let's reframe from this word "feminism".
()

BYRON RYAN FROM USA said:
What is needed is for the west to spread Biblical Christianity to counter and defeat Islam and protect ourselves from Islam.
()

IDIL FROM USA said:
First of all, thank you Allen Keiswetter for the great article. Clearly I agree that there is a difference between reliogion and civilazation.

Mr. Chander, when you say "Of course there is a clash of civilizations and has been going on for 1400 years." And than you are saying "Hindus have been clashing with Islam for over 1000 years now"; "Clash between Islam and Buddhism has started in Thailand"; "Similarly, clash has been going between Muslims and Christians in Phillipines for some time now." ...etc. To me, I think you are mixing religion and civilization. Islam, Christian, Hindu, Buddhism all are religion. Eastern Civilization, Western Civilization ... etc is much more complex than just religion. All those countries have more then one religion. Read Amartya Sen's book "identity and Violence" ...["Identity and Violence" is not an entirely tedious book, although it is more than a tad repetitive. Its thesis is that the ascription to individuals of "singular identities"--in other words, to speak of a person as "a Muslim" to the exclusion of other facets of his personality--leads to the "miniaturization of human beings." And this, he avers, is Not Good. It is also Not Accurate. And Unhelpful. And Divisive. And Dangerous."] (www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110008272) So, the solution is not to norrow down to civilization or religion .....the solution is to appreciate and embrace everyone with all their layers, as Mr. Sen mentioned in his book - "The same person can be, without any contradiction, an American citizen, of Caribbean origin, with African ancestry, a Christian, a liberal, a woman, a vegetarian, a long-distance runner, a historian, a schoolteacher, a novelist, a feminist, a heterosexual, a believer in gay and lesbian rights, a theater lover, an environmental activist, a tennis fan, a jazz musician, and someone who is deeply committed to the view that there are intelligent beings in outer space with whom it is extremely urgent to talk (preferably in English)
()

SYED YASSAR HAMID SHAH FROM NORWAY said:
My first written post did not come up so I will try to post it again!

A reply to Mr. Ramesh:

The readers should know that world borders changes all the time. The creation of Pakistan from British India came as a reaction to the Hindu Congress Partys refusal to the Cabinet Mission Plan which wanted a United India with the security to its minorities. Bangladesh was Pakistan before India (under the Congress Party) attacked and invaded Pakistan for later to break it up in 1971. Today no Hindu land is under Muslim occupation in South Asia. Infact it is Muslim land of Kashmir that is under Hindu occupation.

The resentment against Bangkok in South Thailand is nothing new. It used to be an independant Sultanate before the Thais occupied it ca. 100 years ago. This latest unrest is because of a long history of economic neglect by the centeral government.

The history of the Phillipino Muslims (christianized as the Moros by the invading Spaniards) is too complex for anyone to sum it up in just a few words. But Abu Sayaf is regarded as unlawful by Phillipines Muslims neighbour countries.

Osama bin Laden is new to the word. The Crusades dates back ca. 1000 years and is well documented. It was mainly a French agression against Phalistine. People from different religions were killed by them as they did not know who was who. One should read the comparison between Caliph Umars entry in Jerusalem vs. the Crusaders entry in Jerusalem. It will be an eye opener.

Todays disturbences dates mainly back to the end of Colonization period when the Europeans left and created nation states without giving the local people the opportunity to deside which entety their land and people should belong to. A very good example is Kashmir.
()

SYED YASSAR HAMID SHAH FROM NORWAY said:
A reply to Mr. Ramesh:

The readers should know that world borders changes all the time. The creation of Pakistan from British India came as a reaction to the Hindu Congress Partys refusal to the Cabinet Mission Plan which state a United India with the security to its minorities. Banglasedh was Pakistan before India (under the Congress Party) attaced and invaded Pakistan for the sake of breaking it up in 1971. Today no Hindu land
is under Muslim occupation in South Asia. Infact it is Muslim land of Kashmir that is under Hindu occupation.

The resentment against Bangkok in South Thailand is nothing new. It used to be an independant Sultanate before the Thais occupied it ca. 100 years ago. This latest unrest is because of a long history of economic neglect by the centeral government.

The history of the Phillipino Muslims (christianized as the Moros by the invading Spaniards) is too complex for anyone to sum it up in just a few words. But Abu Sayaf is regarded as unlawful by Phillipines Muslims neighbour countries.

Osama bin Laden is new to the word. The Crusades dates back ca. 1000 years and is well documented. It was mainly a French agression against Phalistine. People from different religions were killed by them during the attack of Jerusalem as they did not know who was who. One should read the comparison between Caliph Umars entry in Jerusalem vs. the Crusaders entry in Jerusalem.

Todays disturbences dates mainly back to the end of Colonization period when the Europeans left and created nation states without the local people's wished beeing addressed (to deside which entety their land and people should belong to) A very good example is Kashmir.
()

ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
Of course there is a clash of civilizations and has been going on for 1400 years. In the Indian subcontinent, Hindus have been clashing with Islam for over 1000 years now; and the clash still erupts occasionally. In the process, Hindus lost all of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh (they were all part of Hindu Kingdoms in Pre-islamic India).

Clash between Islam and Buddhism has started in Thailand. Similarly, clash has been going between muslims and Christians in Phillipines for some time now.

There is calsh of civilizations between Islam and Crusaders because Osama Bin Laden proclaims it to be so.

It does not make any sense to deny the obvious. You don't solve problems by ignoring them or not recognizing them; you solve them by acknowledging them.
()