The term “clash of civilizations” appeared at the beginning of the 1990s, right after the Cold War era, when everyone was overexcited about the new globalized world. Samuel Huntington was among the first who used the term predicting the clash between Islam and the Western world. Huntington defined civilization as “a cultural entity” with different “history, language, culture, tradition, and, most important, religion.” According to him, there are eight main civilizations – Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, African and Latin American. He predicted that in the future nations and states would become less important as a source of identity for people, whereas conflicts will revolve around the differences between civilizations. His theory states that cultural and religious identities rather than ideologies will cause many wars and violent conflicts in the future. Back at the end of the last century, it was probably hard to believe in this theory, but some twenty years later, it is becoming clear that Huntington was right.
Huntington not only predicted the clash of civilizations, but he also thought that Muslims and non-Muslims are most likely to fight each other. That is not an entirely new phenomenon – Islam and Christianity have been fighting each other since the Crusades. Recent trends have made the conflict more likely to happen. The majority of the world is no longer dominated by the West as it was the case in the 1900s, while the influence of Islam is growing. Many Muslim countries increase their economic and politic power, while their populations rapidly grow and religion spreads. Military conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, and Indonesia have intensified Islamic identity. Arab nationalism and fundamentalism have increased over the last decades. Westerners believe that everyone should adopt their values and this so-called “Westernization” makes Muslim fundamentalists and their supporters mad. At the same time, Islam is a religion seeking to convert others. Both sides believe that only their way of life is correct and the others should admit it.
Back in 1993 Huntington wrote that during the clash of civilizations there would be “kin-country syndrome” – members of the same cultures will help each other fight common enemy. It has happened, and Muslim militants fought together against their non-Muslim enemies in wars in Iraq, Chechnya, and Kosovo. Among the fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are now citizens of Syria, Yemen, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and other countries.
Probably the best proofs of Huntington’s theory were the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Then it became clear that, as Osama bin Laden put it, there is a war “between the Islamic world and the Americans and their allies.” Many call September 11, 2001, the beginning of the clash of civilizations, West against Islam. The existing gap between Muslims and the Western culture was seen in 2005 when a Danish newspaper (and later several other European newspapers) published cartoons making fun of Prophet Muhammad. Protests leading to violence swept Muslim countries whose population found the jokes very offensive. Europeans and Americans saw the comics as the expression of freedom of speech.
Some experts point out that there is a direct connection between Islamic Jihad and the clash the civilizations. Jihad is a duty of every Muslim. It has two meanings, the first one is to fight sins and passions from within, and probably all religious Muslims will agree with this interpretation. The second purpose is to fight against all non-Muslins and to spread Islam. While some of the Muslim scholars admit, that Koran has nothing to do with killing the infidels, the interpretation of jihad as a holy war is developed and supported by militant and aggressive Islamists, including now dead Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
Muslim Brotherhood was one of the first modern movements which believed that Muslims should fight for their domination and extermination of infidels. Al Qaeda is one of the most known terrorist organizations with an extensive network all over the world. Al Qaeda attracts Muslims from many different countries, the main thing they have in common is their religion and its interpretation. They see their enemies as United States, Israel, Christianity, globalization, and the secular West. Such organizations chose terror as their means to fight the West. Suicide bombings and terrorist attacks are the primary weapons. Terrorist deliberately chooses civilians as their targets, they know no mercy and try to cause as much damage as possible. They don’t want to bargain and to make deals. They want their cause to win and their enemies to die or live in fear. Such religious terrorist organizations seem to be extremely dangerous, while the number of their attacks is growing.
Osama bin Laden believed as he said in one of his TV statements, that Islam had been humiliated for 80 years. He probably was referring to the end of the Ottoman Empire, and the establishment of Britain’s Palestine Mandate. More specifically, bin Laden also wanted revenge for the US intervention in Afghanistan. The occupation of Iraq by Americans made things even worse and turned, even more, Muslims against the West.
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine and the US support of Israel also seems to play a significant role in the clash of modern civilizations. There are many religious extremists and inflexible leaders on both sides, and it seems almost impossible that a compromise will ever be reached. Many Arabs see Israel as a representative of the West in a non-Western part of the world. Israel is the mainly secular society with Western ways of life and modern technologies. In a way, this regional conflict symbolizes a large-scale clash between Islam and the West. While peacemaking attempts fail, the Palestinian conflict serves as yet another excuse for Islamic terrorism.
The world does not seem to have a solution to fight terrorism. At the same time, fundamentalist Islamic beliefs are gaining more popularity, and Arab population is growing. Considering recent political developments, the clash of Muslim and non-Muslim civilizations seems inevitable and probably on a much larger scale than we witness it at the moment. Muslim–Western hostility is growing, and America’s War on terrorism does not seem to be helping much. There are deeply-inherent differences between the two cultures and terror will not stop until we learn to overcome those differences.
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