By Bilal Hashmi
Unfortunately, and as any critical observer of current events
would affirm, it is this very same archaic logic stemming from an imaginative
“clash of civilizations” -- and not from the simple perversity of plummeting an
already ravaged nation -- that has infiltrated the upper echelons of governments
around the world and shaped opinion on the war. Thus, according to Prime
Minister Chrétien’s February 13, 2003 address at the Chicago Council on Foreign
For one to exhume the origins of this draconian thesis, its entry
into academic circles, and eventual manifestation into global politics, it is
necessary to refer to the period immediately following the end of the Cold War.
Either honestly in search for a post-Cold War paradigm for international
relations, or simply bent on justifying exorbitant defence expenditures,
Washington-based think-tanks began formulating a new lens through which the
world would henceforth be seen. Replacing the already
In the summer of 1993, Foreign Affairs published a
controversial article entitled, “The Clash of Civilizations?” by Samuel P.
Huntington. “The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics,”
It should by now be clear that we are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations – the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both. It is crucially important that we on our side should not be provoked into an equally historic but also equally irrational reaction against that rival.
What such scurrilous scholarship tends to omit is the overbearing historical interdependence between both the Islamic and Western civilizations. Indeed, both Islam and the West have seen their days of glory as benign empires stretching from one end of the world to the other; and although the latter currently finds itself at the zenith of its power, it is clearly in debt to the latter for introducing to it the rudimentary principles of hygiene, igniting the Renaissance, translating Greek writings, and developing the fields of science, medicine, engineering, architecture, and philosophy among other things. To ignore this vast and rich history is to forego any possibility of peaceful coexistence amongst all peoples of the world.
Shireen T. Hunter, the director of Islamic Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and the author of The Future of Islam and the West: Clash of Civilizations or Peaceful Coexistence?, concludes her study on the relationship between Islam and the West on a less draconian note than her contemporaries. “At the interstate level,” Hunter asserts, “the most important sources of discord between the Muslim countries and the West have not been disagreements rooted in civilizational incompatibility.” “Instead,” she adds, “discord has grown from the efforts of Muslim governments, including governments that espouse a secular philosophy and agenda, to increase their margin of independence, to challenge the supremacy of the West, and to pursue policies contrary to Western interests.”
When Muslims ponder as to why they have become symbolic targets
for arbitrary and wholly unconstitutional arrests, detentions, and deportations
in the aftermath of September 11, they should realize the atmosphere of
xenophobia and fear that outrageous civilizational
discourses such as the “clash of civilizations” generate. With this prevailing
logic in mind, modern-day crusaders in
conclusion, it must be stressed that Islam is not a Middle Eastern faith, and
statistics proving that it is the fastest growing religion in