In July 1993, Foreign Affairs published Samuel P. Huntington’s famous work called “The Clash of Civilizations”. This article to put it simply, says that the West is on a collision course with the Muslim World — a world that is bitter for its failures and jealous of the West’s success.
When reading Huntington or Bernard Lewis one can some times feel a prejudice against the areas they write about, in this case Muslims, as one homogonous group and the Middle East as a homogonous place. The ideas of Huntington and Lewis are almost one and the same. They write about Islam as a violent faith whose people are jealous of the West and upset with the current state of their once great civilization.
Rarely in the West do these “others” get to respond. But the young scholar, Nafeez Mossaddeq Ahmed writes:
Huntington’s thesis builds upon a long tradition of Western political animosity-motivated by geostrategic interests-in the Middle East, since the end of the Cold War. Such animosity, it seems, is justified by repeated reference to the intrinsically violent character of the “Other”, in this case, of ‘Islam’. This ideological duality between the intrinsically superior civilization of the West and the intrinsically bestial civilization of the ‘Other’ is not a new phenomenon in international relations, but rather builds upon a longstanding tradition of warmongering.”
Ahmed explains that Huntington’s thesis is nothing new, it’s a reoccurring trend that when a group wants to start wars they start by creating an “other” that can be turned into a prejudice that will have society be okay with declaring war on them.
He continues, “The Clash of civilizations thesis provides a stunningly convenient ideological framework in which to situate the new threat posed by Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda… such international Islamic terrorism, the reach of which is indefinite and the defeat of which is indeterminable, provides a permanent spectre of imminent doom that is highly convenient for a US government which plans to conduct worldwide operations to expand and consolidate its hegemony.”
A G Noorani notes, “Spurious theories thrive on sweeping assertions and misrepresentations.” Huntington and Bernard Lewis’ theories put Muslims and Arabs into one homogenous group whose actions are due to their backwardness and the supposed backwardness of their faith, Islam.
Instead of discussing real issues that upset Muslims as the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the West’s one-sidedness in support for the Israelis to the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, such scholars point the finger at the victim as to not put the blame where it should be, on themselves and the governments they support. These theories thrive on racist sounding rhetoric which when looked at seems absurd that this is considered scholarly material.
I work in a bookstore and one of the saddest things about this is that these books sell, and some look to Lewis in particular as being a professional when it comes to Islam. This to me is like reading works by Islamic Fanatics to learn about the West, both rely on their stereotypes of the ‘other’ and push it as the truth.
It will take level headed people to find out what is really going on and I think we need to look at our countries actions in the Muslim world to find out where the animosity comes from; and as Mohammad Khatami the ex-president of Iran said, we need to have a dialogue of civilizations instead of a clash between them.
Joshua Shahab Nouril is a sociology student at Santa Monica College in southern California.
Bibliography — Nafeez Mossaddeq Ahmed.2003. Behing The War On Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq pg 2-3 — N.M.A .2003. Behind The War on Terror pg 13 — A.G.Noorani .2002.Islam & Jihad: Prejudice Versus Reality pg 5