Clash of Civilizations a Dangerious Idea

The first assignment I give the graduate students in my class at Chicago Theological Seminary is Samuel Huntington’s The Clash … Continued

The first assignment I give the graduate students in my class at Chicago Theological Seminary is Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations. I figure it is only fair for them to do a thorough reading of perhaps the most prevalent theory of our times.

And then I spend the rest of the semester trying to dig out of that hole.

It’s not that my students – most of them bright, progressive, hopeful people of faith – want to believe that there is a clash of civilizations. It is that Huntington has created a framework that facts seem to fit in. And as our media continues to provide a microphone and a stage for religious totalitarians, the Huntington thesis that civilizations are inherently at odds with each other acquires the force of inevitability, which makes it the single most dangerous idea of our time.

So I am continually looking for resources that are as wide-ranging as Huntington’s book – that pull together history, politics, religious scholarship and personal narrative into a coherent framework which can counter the force of inevitability with the power of possibility.

I have found one such resource in Akbar Ahmed’s important new book, Journey Into Islam.

Professor Ahmed’s personal range is remarkable. He is a devoted Muslim who was trained as an anthropologist at the University of London, served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, lived for extended periods of time on three continents, and seems comfortable in situations that range from tribal rituals to state dinners. He brings every inch of his access, erudition and aplomb to this book.

He also brings a deep and nuanced understanding of Islam, something shockingly absent from most of the current books on Muslims in the modern world. For Ahmed, Islam is not just a handful of sacred verses or a particular political movement, but a broad tradition inspired by a religious ethos that includes poetry, philosophy, prayer, politics and every other aspect of human life. This breadth of understanding is distilled into a fascinating three-part typology of Muslim leadership – the mystical, the modernist and the fundamentalist. Each of these archetypes is rooted within the tradition and has had various incarnations throughout Muslim history.

Choosing the rickshaw over the armchair, Ahmed sets off for an extended journey through the Muslim world to find out how these archetypes are playing out in reality. He gives us conversations with students at fundamentalist Muslim schools, meetings with powerful political leaders like President Musharraf of Pakistan and interactions with Muslim intellectual giants like Bosnia’s Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric. He unpacks how the Muslim world views America’s post-9/11 actions. And he brings an anthropologist’s eyes to the journey – for example, pointing out how Muslim women on a flight back to the Middle East employ the restroom on the plane to change from their European skirts and blouses to the robes and headscarves required by their lives in the Arab world.

He also brings several of his young students along, and includes their insights in the book in the form of their journal entries. It is a brilliant addition for several reasons. First, it affirms the idea that the clash of civilizations is ultimately going to be ended when young people are able to connect and understand one another. Second, it spices up Ahmed’s narrative, making it a particularly interesting read for students. And finally, it provides eyes on Ahmed’s experience that he can’t provide himself. For example, this is Hadia’s account of Ahmed at the shrine of the sufi saint Moin-uddin Chisti in Ajmer: “I suddenly saw our dear professor, Dr. Akbar, transform from the seasoned diplomat and the analytical researcher to a calm, peaceful mystic, overtaken by the spirituality around him.”

Ahmed is not afraid to ask tough questions. Where were the American politicians who knew enough of both American history and Muslim civilization and took the long-view in rebuilding that relationship? Where were the Muslim leaders who could adapt the Islamic models of mystical and modernist leadership to the present times to challenge the fundamentalist path?

But ultimately, this is a book of hope. First and foremost, Ahmed has hope in all the traditions that he is a part of – Islam and the west, South Asia and America. He suggests that each return to its own first principles – democracy and equal rights for America, knowledge and balance for Islam – implying that, at bottom, these civilizations are not only compatible but can learn a great deal from one another.

And Ahmed provides a way forward in the form of a man named Aijaz, a powerful Muslim hardliner and author of books calling on Muslims to wage violent war against the west. Ahmed introduces us to Aijaz at the beginning of the book, and portrays him as an intransigent example of fundamentalist Islam.

But Aijaz listens carefully when Ahmed and his students visit his school. He begins to accept the message that real Christians and Jews are far more complex than the stereotypical images fundamentalist Muslim preachers insist on. He is drawn to the idea that Islam and America are not inevitably in conflict, that he can play a part in bridging the divide, and in fact there are many dimensions in the Muslim tradition that call him to do so.

Aijaz changes. He begins to give different speeches, write different books, even leaves his position at the fundamentalist Muslim school.

An end to the clash of civilizations? No. But it is amazing how much easier it is to find your way out of the darkness when candles begin to light up.

“On Faith” panelist Eboo Patel is the Founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core and the author of Acts of Faith.

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  • Viejita del oeste

    It seems that Patel has dedicated his career to helping differing groups recognize more of what they have in common, and less of what divides them. Ordinary believers — and thoughtful nonbelievers — share a desire for peace and justice. It is as counterproductive for westerners to demonize Muslims as it is for Islamic leaders to call us the “Great Satan” and other epithets.

  • Zeenat

    Iboo Patel thank you for introducing us to Akbar Ahmed’s new book Journey into Islam. Where can I get a copy of the book? I look forward to reading it. It must indeed be an incredible journey and a bold experiment and what better that if we are provided answers to the problems of our century that divide us so deeply.

  • Thomas Baum

    True religion is taking care of widows and orphans. We are all God’s children and aren’t we one big dysfuntional family. Jesus was and is who He said that He is and that is God in the flesh not some second-rate prophet. Just because a lot of people call themselves christians does not mean that they are. Christianity is not a religion but a covenential relationship with the Triune, Triumphant God. God is Love, Pure Love, a consuming Fire of Pure Love. Judaism is not a religion either but a covenential relationship between God and a people. Jesus was a Jew and His mom was a Jew also. Islam is a religion and it is a religion of world domination, I do not hold it against Mohammed that he was deceived by the deceiver himself. Almighty God is a searcher of hearts and minds and not a searcher of religious affiliations or lack thereof. Knowing God’s Name is not the same thing as knowing God. I happen to be the New Testament Moses and I am here to tell the whole world that God wins, satan loses and that a tie is unacceptable. I have met God and He is not the raving, hate-filled, egomaniac that you would think that He is by listening to what a lot of people that know His Name say. We are not at a clash of civilizations but at the climax of history, dire times are coming, be ready. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Education

    Where is Frank Collins? I’m suprised he hasn’t jumped into this posting with cut and paste remarks of Islam. Mr. Patel brings up an important concept that is lacking in the Muslim world: direct dialouge with their “leaders” and inhabitants. We are at a point where bridges are not even built anymore between civilizations. Hardliners from each side have destroyed them and will continue to do so unless there is active participation within their own communities that want change.

  • Paganplace

    See, now, this is the kind of thing that America needs to be *supporting.* We have the tools to communicate, and there, we can find a better way than being pitted against each other by religious extremists. I think we *can* all get along in the world, if we’re willing to really see, rather than indulge in the blind condemnation that seems to really be holding us back.

  • shrike

    This “clash” is nothing new.See Galileo, Darwin and any other rationalist as they seek objective truth. There always seems to be a Savonarola working to crush them.

  • gregor

    Someone please correct the annoying typo in the title.

  • John Dickert

    1. In the past, other religions have been intolerant of the competition. In the past Christians persecuted heretics, killed apostates, and converted multitudes by force. The Japanese used the defense of Shinto to shut out Westerners.

  • Curmudgeon

    Ummm. Perhaps the reason that Huntington’s thesis “has created a framework that facts seem to fit in” is because Hungtinton might be right (and, I’m reluctant to suggest, that your thesis is, well, wrong). You add that “our media continues to provide a microphone and a stage for religious totalitarians…” implies to me a lack of understanding about what the media’s role might be. Yes, it supplies a stage and a microphone; hopefully it does it in an objective and even-handed manner (we both know it doesn’t, but that is the operative theoretical goal). Yes, religious totalitarians grab the “mike,”; what’s your point? The media shouldn’t allow certain kinds of people access? And who decides that? Are you arguing for censorship? This is just the same old same old: rap the media and fail to provide a solution. “…[T]he Huntington thesis that civilizations are inherently at odds with each other acquires the force of inevitability…” Your point? Suppose he’s right? It’s all well and good for you to provide a book review of a book with a countervailing notion. But in your article here you’ve completely failed to dissect what exactly is wrong with Huntington’s arguments –other than that you don’t seem to like them –or how Ahmed’s book does so (if indeed it does).Maybe Ahmed is right and Huntington is wrong. But your essay gives me not a shred of argumentation or insight on it one way or the other.

  • Dennis

    Good cathc Gregor.

  • Margaret

    Not all Arab women are robing up on their way back from Europe. This is unique to the Gulf region, where women wear the abaya (a long black robe). Wearing the abaya is a cultural phenomenon, not an Islamic one, since many other Arab Muslim women (ie Egyptian, Lebanese, Palestinian), wear the Muslim head covering (hijab) but not abaya.

  • Margaret

    Not all Arab women are robing up on their way back from Europe. This is unique to the Gulf region, where women wear the abaya (a long black robe). Wearing the abaya is a cultural phenomenon, not an Islamic one, since many other Arab Muslim women (ie Egyptian, Lebanese, Palestinian), wear the Muslim head covering (hijab) but not abaya.

  • Curmudgeon

    Let me also add that just because an idea is “dangerous” doesn’t make it “wrong”; it merely makes it dangerous. Darwinism was (and to some still is) a dangerous idea. Overthrowing kings in favor of democratically elected leaders was (and apparently still is) a dangerous idea in 1776. Notions by people like Copernicus and Gallileo that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe was a certainly a very dangerous idea in it’s day. Guy named Jesus had some dangerous ideas in his day, too. As did Mohammed and another guy named Moses (not the delusional one above, although he sounds dangerous, too).I would have thought that as a professor in a theological seminary you’d have had a more sophisticated grasp of dangerous ideas than “dangerous equals wrong.”

  • Packman

    You fail to make the point that the clash of civilizations is a dangerous idea. You say it is and then you offer no support. Do you not believe it yourself or do you assume that everyone already agrees with you? As far as I can tell, you have written an endorsement of a book that you agree with and called it an essay.

  • Patrick

    Understanding our differences is easy. Understanding our commonalities is much more difficult. That takes mutual respect.I believe the process starts out with an open mind, segassious attitude; broad-minded.A book that comes to my mind is the Lotus Sutra, the teaching of Sidartha/Shakyamuni that respects the essential nature of all life equally, without prejudice or conflict.A great history book to boot as well.

  • Ali

    The “clash of civilizations” is not about theories, but about the way people practice their beliefs. It’s not comforting to read a recent study (Pew Center) that indicates some Muslims in America believe that suicide in the course of terrorism is legitimate. The issue isn’t between Christianity and Islam, but against secularism and Islam, and I very much fear that secularism would lose.I might add that I’m an Arab-American (Christian) who’s learned Arabic, studied the Qur’an in the original Arabic, and lived in both secular (Turkey) and religious (UAE) Muslim states up until 10 years ago. At that time, even other Turks were worried about Muslim fundamentalists gaining control of their secular government, so why shouldn’t Americans be concerned about the same?

  • R. Swafford

    I love this post; I believe that in this kind of thought and action lies the salvation of us all.However, it seems to me that beneath the religious conflict is an underlying economic one over oil. As our former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, put it:”The mistakes of the Iraq war are not only tactical and strategic, but historical. It is essentially a war of colonialism, attempted in the post-colonial age.”— The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, January 11, 2007.I mean, does anyone still believe we’re over there for WMD? Or to end terrorism? Is the anger South Asians feel towards entirely because we’re not Muslims? Or is it largely because they see our presence there, over the last 50 years, as a kind of ever-increasing invasion and colonization? Their rhetoric and their journalism stress the latter factor even over the religious ones; our evil “Great Satan” religion impels us towards imperialism, in their view.We must deal with our energy situation and quit depending on mid-east oil. Nonetheless, I do agree that this kind of interfaith communication is also essential to achieving peace. I just think we must change some of our oil-driven actions as well.

  • Dennis

    Good catch Gregor.

  • jwest

    You can see how east meets west with a certain amount of success right here in the good old USA. For the most part muslims in America have jobs and responsibilities, are better educated and just want to live in peace and certainly don’t want to cause trouble in there new homeland. For the most part islam is private to them and they are happy. You want to see how the world can come together and live in peace just look what happens when people migrate to the west.

  • TJ

    This is an insightful column. Indeed the effort it takes to build understanding can vanish in an instant of fear, anger, and hatred with one act of mass hysteria, like war or an act of terrorism for example.Educated people must guard their intellect and compassion and dig deeper as Mr. Akbar Ahmed has during such times of emotional unanimity as we saw after 9/11 giving Mr. Bush the carte blanc to wage a war that still hasn’t led to any solution in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Somalia but has indeed only made matters worse.Great read…

  • Noah

    It seems obvious that at least a few “clashes of civilizations” are going on in the world right now…different social systems, governmental systems, religions, languages, and nations jockey for power and position and influence.The question is, how peaceful will the clash be?I lived in Japan, where traditional Japanese norms, values, and ways of life are in continual clash with elements of other cultures – American, Chinese, Korean, European, Latin American, etc. Arguments and confusion and disruption of lifestyles results. But no one gets hurt.It is inevitable that Islam, Christianity, and secularism will continue to clash, as they have clashed for centuries. Also, Middle Eastern nations will vie with European nations for power and prestige. But it’s quite possible for this to happen without blood being shed, and this is what we should work toward, not arguing over whether “clash” is happening.

  • What do you say to this?

    Eboo Patel so eloquently writes a piece of crap, says Akbar Ahmed from pakistan is great…blah blah! This was an Op-Ed piece in a Pakistani newspaper…treatment of minorities by so-called radical Islamists in Pakistan, who claim to be fighting other civilizations for trying to destabilize Islam…Open season on minoritiesLOVE for one’s country comes in different forms. At one extreme is the American patriot who pronounced: “My country, right or wrong!” At the other is the saying: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”I personally tend towards the latter view. When those ruling the country say or do something I disagree with, I do not feel I am being unpatriotic by pointing it out. Indeed, I agree completely with the sentiment expressed in this wise observation: “A patriot is somebody who will defend the state against the government of the day.”There are times — all too rare, alas! — when I am proud to be a Pakistani. Far more frequently, the antics of our rulers and our public figures are a source of shame. But while the impact of most official decisions and actions is fleeting, the ongoing disgrace of our nation’s treatment of its minorities is a permanent blot on our collective reputation and conscience. While I understand why our religious extremists behave the way they do, the failure of civil society to force a change in laws and attitudes is far more deplorable.What re-ignited my sense of outrage was the recent visit by a European Union joint commission to Islamabad where they were, in effect, told by the Pakistani team that all was well with our minorities. Those representing us must be totally shameless, for they said without an iota of remorse that our blasphemy laws had been around for a 100 years. This is rubbish, as they were inflicted on us by Ziaul Haq just over 20 years ago.Our team went on to ask the EU not to pressurise the Pakistan government to repeal this infamous piece of legislation as this might make the public think we were being pushed into changing the law under western prodding. Considering that the government often does the right thing only under foreign pressure, there is every reason for the EU to continue pushing.For those who think I am over-stating my case, here are some random examples of the excesses inflicted on our non-Muslim and Ahmadi citizens over the last year. These are mostly drawn from the 14th issue of a newsletter called Pakistan Concern that focused on our minorities.On April 1, the police in Toba Tek Singh arrested Salamat Masih and 11-year old Daniel Masih, while warrants under the blasphemy laws were issued for the arrest of three other members of the Christian family. The charge? That they forcibly removed the ‘Islamic sticker’ from the pocket of Faisal Gulzar, a Muslim boy, and trampled on it. A mob later attacked the Christian colony where Ratan, a disabled boy, was badly injured. But according to Father Bonnie Mendes, the whole incident started with a fight among the boys in which their parents got involved.On March 23, Amanat Masih, a 50-year old Christian from Sheikhupura, was tortured by a mob for allegedly burning some pages from the Holy Quran. He was later arrested by the police under the blasphemy laws, and remains in jail. His wife, Zohera Bibi, had saved Rs 50,000 for their daughter’s wedding. This sum was looted by the mob.On April 8, Shaheen Masih, a 12-year old Christian girl was kidnapped by four Muslim men and gang-raped over two days after which she was finally rescued by the police. But although she was medically examined, the police refused to give the report to her parents. The four men were arrested and a case was registered against them, but they were later released. One of them was reported as saying to the others: “Don’t hesitate to rape a Christian girl. Even if she dies, no one will get us. Her poor parents cannot pursue us.”In Charsadda, a small town in the NWFP with an old, established Christian community, letters have recently been slipped under the doors of Christian homes, warning the inhabitants to convert to Islam or face death. So clearly, the Talibanisation of the Frontier does not countenance any non-Muslims in the areas it seeks to control.Ahmadis, too, bear the brunt of Pakistan’s rising tide of Islamic extremism. According to the latest Ahmadiya community report, 79 Ahmadis have been killed between 1984 and 2005 simply for their belief. The report goes on to say: “Religious extremists remained free to congregate in numbers in Rabwah and indulge in abusive rhetoric, but Ahmadis were not allowed to hold a single open-air community event in their own town.”According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, Hindus in Sindh are insecure because of the rising number of kidnappings and murders. An estimated 1.5 million Hindus live in Pakistan, and according to Nisar Khuhro of the Pakistan People’s Party, more and more of them are being kidnapped for ransom. On March 2, the BBC reported the disappearance of Garish Kumar from Umerkot. His dismembered body was found near a madressah, and the police suspected an extreme Islamic group of the crime. His father, a local trader, says nobody in authority is interested in taking up the case because the victim was a Hindu.According to the Minority Rights Group’s annual report, Pakistan has risen by eight places to occupy eighth position on the MRG’s ranking of countries where minorities are at risk. In fact, this view is widely reflected in the international media where the plight of Pakistan’s hapless minorities gets hugely adverse coverage. But apart from stout denial, this government has done little to confront the issue, and give our minorities a sense of security.All these random incidents I have cited here have been reported in the media, and to the police. The fact that little or no action has been taken is a reflection of the apathy in our society towards our minorities. And clearly, it is further proof that Musharraf’s boast about his agenda of ‘enlightened moderation’ is just hot air. Only when a particularly gruesome story hits the foreign media is there any pretence of official action. But as soon as the furore has died down, it is open season on non-Muslims again.Although Islam directs its followers to protect non-Muslims, the fact is that in Pakistan, these injunctions are largely ignored by the clergy and their fanatical followers. The state looks the other way when minorities are persecuted because they are seen as powerless. Until those at the top show a sense of outrage, non-Muslims will continue to be treated as second-class citizens.

  • Alex MacDonald

    The clash of civilizatons is possibly dangerous and certainly stupid: western civilization became global long ago as civilization moved westward from its original centers in the east. The only real “clash” came when that westernward movement crossed the Atlantic and wiped out the extant civilizations of the New World. What we are seeing now in the attacks on civilization itself by fanatical religionists (not all of them Moslem) has its twentieth century precedents in Germany’s application of scientific methods to the destruction of the modern humanism and that Central European community of Jews whose cultural productions, since the 14th century, had humanized and tamed much of European culture; imperial Japan, too, applied western modes of warfare and to the elimination of the values of global civilization from eastern Asia. Hitler’s Germany, Tojo’s Japan, and now the Islamist dream broadcast and acted out by bin Laden, are best understood as reactions against the speed and depth of modernization in decaying traditional societies (feudal in the case of Japan and Germany, tribal in the case of Islam). Huntington’s thesis just occludes understanding and glorifies terrorism as an inevitable expression of civilization. The power of his thesis lies in its rhetorical nature and amateurish research.

  • jakeweed

    Whether Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations is dangerous or not, it is certainly very sloppy and has been widely discredited as an articulation of the dynamics of contemporary world politics by serious scholars.Here’s a quote from one empirical study that tested Huntington’s hypothesis: “We assess the degree to which propositions from Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order can account for the incidence of militarized interstate disputes between countries during the period 1950-92. We find that such traditional realist influences as contiguity, alliances, and relative power, and liberal influences of joint democracy and interdependence, provide a much better account of interstate conflict. Pairs of states split across civilizational boundaries are no more likely to become engaged in disputes than are other states ceteris paribus. Even disputes between the West and the rest of the world, or with Islam, were no more common than those between or within most other groups.”There is also a large body of research that documents the fact that there are, despite popular opinions to the contrary, very few identifiable cultural beliefs and norms that distinguish between Huntington’s 8 “civilizations”–that, in fact, along most cultural lines there is greater diversity within each of these “civilizations” than between them.The fact that Huntington’s “thesis” resonates has much more to do with the nature of collective identity construction in many societies than it does with any basis it has in empirical reality.

  • Alex MacDonald

    The Huntington’s “clash of civilizatons” is possibly dangerous but and certainly a stupid one: western civilization became global long ago as civilization moved westward from its original centers in the east. The only real “clash” came when that westernward movement crossed the Atlantic and wiped out the extant civilizations of the New World. What we are seeing now in the attacks on civilization itself by fanatical religionists (not all of them Moslem) has its twentieth century precedents in Germany’s application of scientific methods to the destruction of the modern humanism and that Central European community of Jews whose cultural productions, since the 14th century, had humanized and tamed much of European culture; imperial Japan, too, applied western modes of warfare and to the elimination of the values of global civilization from eastern Asia. Hitler’s Germany, Tojo’s Japan, and now the Islamist dream broadcast and acted out by bin Laden, are best understood as reactions against the speed and depth of modernization in decaying traditional societies (feudal in the case of Japan and Germany, tribal in the case of Islam). Huntington’s thesis occludes understanding and glorifies terrorism as an inevitable expression of civilization. The power of the thesis lies in its capacity to elevate any inter-communal violence into a “clash of civilizations.”

  • DGus

    Surely this florid statement is the result of an editor pumping up the rhetoric:”[T]he Huntington thesis that civilizations are inherently at odds with each other … [is] the single most dangerous idea of our time.”Really? More dangerous than radical Islam? Do we know of any Huntingtonite suicide bombers? any Huntingtonite hijackings?

  • Ethan Quern

    Truly, religion is the curse of humanity. I do not say this as an athiest, but as a historian. As long as there are blasphemy laws anywhere in the world, the entire world is doomed.

  • Asim

    Ebbo, Three, am proposing in my book that instead of H’s “civilizational fault lines,” that we have “A fault line of accumulated Muslim grievances,” that explains the phenomenon of radicalism in the Muslim World: Oppressed Palestinians by a fascist Israeli apartheid regime, denial of self-determination to Muslims in Kashmir, Kosovo, Chechnya, and genocide of Bosnian Muslims in the heart of Europe and to top it all the disastrous war on Iraq. Over and above the people of the “Muslim World” are oppressed from within by totalitarian regimes and from without by a West supporting those regimes and intervening at every turn in the affairs of the Muslim World including Military intervention. European crusades on the Muslim East, colonialism, imperialism, exploitation of Muslim resources-oil for example-are all a background to a wider discussion of such grievances.I do not think it is difficult to refute H’s shaky paradigm at all-it is a fade and has already lost its thrust.As an overwhelming majority, Muslims, by Quranic definition are MODERATE and believe in a mutually peaceful co-existence for the good of humanity as equal partners- a glaring example of Muslim peaceful coexistence that predates America itself is Muslim Spain from 711-1992 AD, where true multicultural diversity and religions coexisted in such a remarkable and productive civilizational synergy that contributed to European renaissance and human civilization at large in the arts, sciences etc…this model can be emulated now in the 21st century if the Muslim World can find a willing West as a mutual partner and on equal footing for the good of humanity-and not as occupied second class citizens.

  • Matt

    “And as our media continues to provide a microphone and a stage for religious totalitarians”New York. Paris. Beslan. Bali. Madrid. London. Lockerbie.. I don’t need to recount the yet to be ended list of terror planned and executed against people who were simply going about their daily life. Please remember, this is done in the name of your God -Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate. May I suggest there has been a serious disconnect?Please light a small candle here and post a renunciation of acts of terror and the Muslims who wage this violent war.

  • Do you agree with this violence crap?

    Never, NOT ONCE, do I read any of the muslim panelists post anger/protest against the violent killings being carried out in the name of Islam. Does it mean they “silently” support what is happening the world over? If so, SHAME ON THEM!!

  • Requesting Succinctness

    To “What do you say to this?”: It’s far preferable to see a link to an article you’re citing than to have to read through (or even just scroll past) the entire text of the article pasted into your comment.

  • Asim

    Ali,Two/// you are an Arab. We don’t need to know that you are a xtian Arab.

  • Steve

    Lewis and Huntington make a lot more sense than does Said. The red circle on the map of which Huntington writes is not a figment of his imagination. There is a violent religious war brewing which could make the 30 Years War look tame. It is pretty much out of the hands of non-Muslims. The only hope is for the Islamic world to look at itself and recoil from the brink.

  • IMustTurnAsideToSeeIt!

    I am the burning bush to todays world. Thomas Paul Moses Baum. you started out shakey but ended well. At that last great trumpet we shall shout together!

  • IMustTurnAsideToSeeIt!

    I am the burning bush to todays world. Thomas Paul Moses Baum. you started out shakey but ended well. At that last great trumpet we shall shout together!

  • EHanne

    A better work is Sells/Qureshi, eds. The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy

  • Anonymous

    “bombers, billionaires, and belly-dancers” Wrong talking points. Its:”terrorists, tyrants, and totalitarians”

  • Fahd

    PULEEZZZ — Akbar Ahmed is the fraud of the century. devout muslim my foot!

  • Paganplace

    I’m curious what constitute your criteria for that, Fahd?

  • Aimee

    It is so much easier to look at the “other” and say ‘They need to change’ and so much harder to focus on our own needs for change. We are ALL the “other.”

  • jon

    “We are ALL the “other.”Aimee, When was the last time you chopped someones head off?

  • Steve Agnew

    Ideas are the most dangerous of fuels. But to suggest that the conflict between Islamists and the World represents a more fundamental rift seems to ignore a lot of history. History after all is replete with many examples of such self-destructive violence and in every case, such cultures inevitably self-destruct.There are many people in the World today with deeply held and sometimes conflicted and contradictory beliefs. Those beliefs comprise religious, ethical, political elements, yet the thread of global “civilization” endures as a complex mixture of those beliefs.The other “civilization”, presumably the Islamists, also has people with equally deeply held and equally conflicted beliefs. The one big difference is that the Islamists have developed an elaborate pretext and justification for violence. This violence goes against any and all persons with whom they disagree, even those of their own Faith.Unfortunately, this kind of violent episode can last many. many years…as did Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism…and result in many unnecessary deaths. The fire of these Islamists’ inherently self-destructive and unworkable ideas will fade after their novelty fades…and after many more innocent victims die. Civilization? Hardly. The irony of the conflict is that the Islamists threat only exists because of the development of our global Civilization. They are part of it, not opposed to it. But ideas are the most dangerous of fuels after all.

  • pat monaghan

    Hi. I was a bit confused after reading the post. In paragraph 11, the author writes: “He suggests that each return to its own first principles – democracy and equal rights for America, knowledge and balance for Islam – implying that, at bottom, these civilizations are not only compatible but can learn a great deal from one another.”But earlier, in paragraph 9, he wrote: “[The book] affirms the idea that the clash of civilizations is ultimately going to be ended when young people are able to connect and understand one another.”Since the latter paragraph seems to presuppose that there is a clash of civilizations, whereas the former one seems to suggest that there is not, the reader is left to wonder where exactly Prof. Ahmed’s work stands on this important issue.

  • ali

    I think after reading the posts I realized many seem to be misunderstanding the intent of the article. This was not an article to hash out the incorrectness of Huffington or the correctness of Akbar. Prof. Patel lectures on Huffington and only used his book as a counter example to Akbar. Suggesting that Akbar provides an alternative to the “clash of civilzations” idea and then endorsing only that we all should read Akbar’s book in order to give us a more well rounded experience of the theory. As for those posting examples of instances where Muslims have been intolerant is exactly the idea being driven home. This is not a condemnation of non-Muslims this a wake up call to all. We all need to reform our ways and look to the moderates and not to the extremists in our midst for examples.

  • Paganplace

    “Since the latter paragraph seems to presuppose that there is a clash of civilizations, whereas the former one seems to suggest that there is not, the reader is left to wonder where exactly Prof. Ahmed’s work stands on this important issue.”I think, Pat, you may be expecting a stronger statement than Mr. Patel is actually trying to relate, here: it’s a different thing to say that there is no essential and inevitable clash between the West and Muslim culture, and that no clashing happens. Clearly, some ‘clashing’ is happening, but it does *not* have to go down like this. Like the extremists on both sides say. Maybe it *is* in fact, the ‘young’ people who can see past that picture of inevitable war and conflict. I dunno if I still count as ‘young’ anymore, but I will say that someone better.

  • gary

    What it all boils down to is that until we all accept fully each others right to believe whatever cockamamie things we wish provided that they cause direct harm to know one there will indeed be warms and rumors of war.

  • Paganplace

    And wouldn’t you think, Frank, that all that is a good reason *not* to listen to the extremists who are spoiling for just those sorts of war? I won’t regale you with tales of what Protestants did in Ireland for counterpoint. I don’t care if you think there’s no comparison, or how much you think your fears are all there are to the people you’re talking about. We have to do better. We all… have to do better.

  • Michael

    The “Clash of Civilizations” actually originates not with Huntington, but with Bernard Lewis who coined the phrase that Huntington built upon. Both of these scholars frame their worldview from a very limited perspective based on some flawed premises. In Lewis’s case, he became one of the great Western scholars on Islam while studying the Turks in the 1950s, as they were attempting to build a secular democracy. This unfortunately colored his whole view of the Islamic world because he was so taken in by the secularists and became a great fan of Attaturk, while mistakenly lumping all opposition to him the be the fault of Islam while blaming Islam for the failings of the Ottoman Empire, rather than economics and failed leaders. He grew to see the Islamic world as a monolith and the Western world as another, throwing out the years of internal strife within these cultures, the variance within them, and how they had interacted and overlapped for centuries. Huntington takes his premise and runs with it, but toned it back in his book a bit more than he did in his original article that led to the eventual book. The fact is, Islam is an important part of the culture of much of the world, but it doesn’t define most of it as we in the west like to think because it makes for convenient labels. We have allied and warred with various factions for centuries, we have learned, traded, and interacted with one another, and even our two major religions are rooted in the same faith group and grew along side one another. There are numerous cultural differences, but that doesn’t lead us to an imminent “clash,” but more likely a continued growing process, which at times will make us stronger, and at times we will struggle with as some resist. Just as the Aisan world isn’t a single bloc, Africa is divided among numerous cultures, so is Islam. It’s time this flawed thesis is thrown into the trash heap of history where it belongs.

  • Greg

    Fine column, good words.

  • Greg

    Fine column, good words.

  • plh

    It is this exact “understanding” of each other that many cultures on this planet fear, and which is why their is perpetually a clash of civilizations, even if some clashes are utterly small, and some larger (ie, Iraq). The fact is that many cultures on this planet view understanding as giving in to Western culture. As far as America returning to equality and empathy, well despite what people say–we are in an era of chronic complaining and whining–America is a very eqaul and open place. And as a result we have open borders, 12 milion illegals, a flooded prison system, a besieged court system etc etc. Try selling the empathy and openess to other countries like Iran, Venezuala, China, even South Korea and see what you get.

  • Paganplace

    “GARY:Having some experience in the matter, I find that ‘walk softly and carry a good stick’ is an oldie but a goodie. Better, though. Humanize. You, them, everyone. People have in them much better than this. Swear to the Gods.

  • Michael Steinberg

    Perhaps some of you should read the book before refuting it. There seem to be a lot ignorant posters

  • Michael Steinberg

    Frank:

  • Paganplace

    Frank, the *bigotry* is when you say, ‘Islamics are bad, you’re with me or against me…’ heck, you started calling *me* Islamic for disagreeing with your self-defined importance of spamming these boards while people are trying to have intelligent conversations. It’s your insistent black-and-white view of the world that turns it into bigotry. You merely demonstrate ‘how to make enemies of people.’ People who are the only ones who can really change things. You see ‘evil people’ everywhere. And appear to be willing to give up all America stands for by *setting really low standards for yourself and your own religious ideology.* You can’t even hear *yourself,* it seems, which you might want to work on if you’re wondering why your ‘message’ isn’t ‘received’ like you think it should be. Maybe *you* ought to read this book under discussion. I intend to. I could use some signs of hope, myself.

  • Paganplace

    “what is good about this? if someone said this is what they believe would you want them as a friend?Then Christians do the same. Trust me. They come to the front door to wake me up and insult me as an ‘idolator’ …try and terrorize our kids with threats of eternal torture, threaten me and tell me they don’t think the law and my civil rights *apply* to what they want to do because they believe nonbelievers *don’t count.*I don’t find *that* particularly friendly, but I don’t see you even admitting it happens, never mind cleaning your *own* house* of such people, as you seem to demand of Muslims. Sure, I have Christian friends. They somehow manage to not see me and my people, or Muslims that way. Cause that choice is *yours.*You take such horrible indignance at getting ‘lumped in with Hindus,’ *gasp!* while calling ‘Islamics’ irredeemably-evil, then lumping *me* in with *them.* No, it’s not completely safe out there in the world. I think it’s your sense of *entitlement* that means you can’t *evaluate* these things in a human perspective. I see terrorism as an unconscionable act of human sacrifice, intended to cast a spell of fear and war in order to validate some twisted vision of what a God demands. Let’s break this spell and remember the humans. Now, chill.

  • Stanislaus Pulle

    The “Clash of Civilizations” is meaningless without a reference to religion and an acceptance of western norms of behavior and governance. Catholicism is the foundation of western civilizations as is attested through institutions of medicine, scholarship, the arts, music, philosophy, ritual, and education. This is what Benedict XVI spoke of the inextricable bond between faith and reason that supplies our values and norms. Faith without reason (Hinduism & Buddhism) is fiction as is the belief in monkey and elephantine gods and rebirths that connect the human and animal kingdom. Reason without faith is nihilistic and walls off informed experience. To the extent that Islamic and Hindu cultures are polar opposites to western traditions, it is inconceivable for the west to assimilate millions of these people without craven indulgence in multiculturalism and not risk violent conflict.

  • Paganplace

    Frank, if you applied the same logic to Christianity as you do to Islam, you would have to insist that you must be a liar about the ‘tolerance’ of Christianity (and, apparently, thus by extension, actually an ‘evil Islamic’ yourself?) because Dominionists post on Youtube and rant about Pagans on Christian radio. And, Stanislaus, living up to pluralistic standards of multiculturalism isn’t ‘craven indulgence.’ It’s what America, at least, is all about. Our revolution came after a long history of Catholicism and Protestantism *not playing well with others,* and established, at least for us, an environment where religions *can* thrive without the corruptions of state power. If you can *not chicken out and cravenly clutch for what we know you can’t handle.* This xenophobia just won’t work.

  • Jozevs et al

    Interesting, Ya Ya Momma Poppa, Monsa Minio/s et al! ECLAT is Watching :=). Ya ya!

  • Anonymous

    Ya!

  • Deb Chatterjee

    Ali (Arab Christian) is right: Huntington’s thesis articulates the clash between Islam (Sharia) and Secularism (West).I might add, that academic polemics aside, Ali has made the point. To let America be what it is now, like a country full of sinful, lewd, loose western values, one needs to prevent Islam from growing inside USA. There are two practical ways of doing just that:(1) Reduce (or eliminate) the level of Muslim immigration (legal/illegal) into USA. Those who don’t agree with the broad aspects of First Amendment (Free Speech) should not be here in the first place.(2) Cutoff relations with Muslim countries, by way of reducing/eliminating trade and cultural relations. Ali, it is a pleasant surprise to know that you are a Arab Christian.

  • JJ

    Are You Spliffin Mon? Eeee Haaaa Ya Ya!

  • Michael

    The largest Islamic nation in the world is also the third largest democracy in the world. Outside of the Arab world, democracy and Islam go hand in hand, along with the toleration of other faiths and value systems. That demonstrates pretty clearly that it is other aspects of Arab society, NOT the Islamic faith, that is the problem and causes the reaction that it does. the Arabs have been out of control of Islam since the fall of the Caliphate in 1258, and it has become the rallying cry of a few fringe radicals to restore it in the name of restoring the Arab world. This after Pan-Arabism, Ba’thism, and every other Arab ideology over the past century has failed. Islam is a cover for an Arab political power play, and very few have bought into it to include the leaders of virtually every Arab nation in addition to most of their populations. Don’t buy the hype.

  • Paganplace

    Read again, Frank. You’re still not addressing your double standards or admitting where you’ve wronged me in the exact same way you claim to be being wronged by ‘Islamics.’

  • Michael

    No, Frank, it looks like your parents breed hate-filled, vile, angry people.The Abassyd Caliphate is responsible for saving every bit of Greek and Roman knowledge that we have today as the foundation for our society while the “civilized” Christian world was busy burning people at the stake for being heretics and destroying all reminants of that pagan society. “honor killings” are also Arab tribalist and not inherently Islamic, but nice to throw that one in there as well since it helps illustrate my point.

  • Michael

    You’re a truly sad individual, Frank, and I do pity you.They didn’t just take the ideas of others (because of course we all build on the work of others, including those we conquer as the Romans, the British, and even the US did), they built on them, brought them together, and preserved them for us to have today. The Muslims gave us the Scientific Method (although I’d venture to guess that you don’t buy into science either), optics, fixed the problems with classic geometry, and even began investigating the prospect of a heliocentric solar system 300 years before the Europeans did. The great strides of Islam disappeared when the Caliphate collapsed due to failed leaders and the Mongul conquest. And I’m sorry I don’t have time or care enough to write you a doctoral thesis with purely academic citations (as if youtube or any of your anti-Islamic blogs qualify either), but if you have issue with it, why don’t you critique it on its merits rather than just lazily write it off, as you do with apparently everything else you disagree with.And can you even read? I didn’t say they were infrequent, I said to blame them on Islam is to further demonstrate your ignorance. They are an effect of regional tribalism, not the Islamic faith (Which is why the countries you mentioned are within the same geographic area). The two are separate issues. And on the 90% question, why don’t you go find me a site that suggests more than 120 million people, or 10% of the Islamic world, are members of al Qaeda or support the overthrow of all things Western and a return to the Caliphate. They may not like us and many can even understand the emotions of the terrorists, but they are definately not on board with them.And anonymous, whoever the heck you are, of course there was an Armenian genocide and of course there was a Jewish holocaust, only a total fool or a manipulative liar would say otherwise. What does that have to do with anything I’m talking about here. I’m not defending the takfiri murderers of the world.

  • Mary Cunningham

    OK,CCNL,I guess you would have done to Islam what Armstrong, Crossan, Spong et al have done for Christianity, especially for the mainline Protestant churches. (Just look at the success of the US Episcopalian church!) Somehow, I think Muslims will decline.

  • Anonymous

    Frank Collins,i see you all the time and you might actually have something good and intelligent to communicate, so may i suggest that you only post after your meds have kicked in and before the benefits go away.

  • Anonymous

    Deb Chatterjee=Shamefully Blatant Racist

  • just wondering

    Frank:How come you never talk about Islam’s goal of using a nation’s laws against them until their numbers have overcome that nation’s population?

  • Gaby

    Jacob, my friend! Frank is an ECLATi-OFF and I don’t think he’ll ever be an ECLATi-ON. He thrives on hate and bigotry. May a black hole suck him up where the PHOTONs never shine!

  • Thomas Baum

    True religion is taking care of widows and orphans. We are all God’s children and aren’t we one big dysfuntional family. Jesus was and is who He said that He is and that is God in the flesh not some second-rate prophet. Just because a lot of people call themselves christians does not mean that they are. Christianity is not a religion but a covenential relationship with the Triune, Triumphant God. God is Love, Pure Love, a consuming Fire of Pure Love. Judaism is not a religion either but a covenential relationship between God and a people. Jesus was a Jew and His mom was a Jew also. Islam is a religion and it is a religion of world domination, I do not hold it against Mohammed that he was deceived by the deceiver himself. Almighty God is a searcher of hearts and minds and not a searcher of religious affiliations or lack thereof. Knowing God’s Name is not the same thing as knowing God. I happen to be the New Testament Moses and I am here to tell the whole world that God wins, satan loses and that a tie is unacceptable. I have met God and He is not the raving, hate-filled, egomaniac that you would think that He is by listening to what a lot of people that know His Name say. We are not at a clash of civilizations but at the climax of history, dire times are coming, be ready. Actually I posted this same message near the top of this posting but I thought I would repost it. To put it into simple words: God wins, satan loses, a tie is unacceptable, God’s Plan is for the salvation of All Of Humanity, We shall all be in the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Love whichever you wish to call it because God is a Being of Pure Love. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Anonymous

    “The bolshevik Revolution in russia was the work of Jewish planning and Jewish dissatisfaction. Our Plan is to have a New world Order. what worked so wonderfully in Russia, is going to become Reality for the whole world.” — The American Hebrew Magazine, 10, Sept. 1920Hammar, chief Zionist money raiser, said, ‘When the blood flows,”Israel won the war [WWI]; we made it; we thrived on it;”Zionism was willing to sacrifice the whole of”I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”…Voltaire

  • VICTORIA

    yes mr baum, taking care of widows and orphans is one of the pillars of the islamic faith- mr patel is , as always, trying to reinforce the unity of people- go to a daniel pipes website and see the hatred and malice he constantly tries to spread using theclash of civilizations as a rally point. as for turkey, they are having their election on july 22nd. its a country that tried total secularism, even to the point of trying to eradicate religion completely (obviously without success). can you imagine what would happen in america if we undertook such a social experiment? they are trying a true blend of democracy and religion.

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