By M. Serajul Islam
07 June 2014
While preparing for the lectures I gave recently on Islam and globalization, I came across a wide array of books and articles that suggested that Islam and globalization are at the two ends of the spectrum with no common meeting ground. Famous Political Scientist Samuel Huntington in his book “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order” ruled out the chances of the Islamic countries ever being a part of the process of globalization. Instead, he predicted that there would inevitably be a clash between the western civilization and “the Islamic civilization”.
Professor Huntington originally articulated the idea of the so-called clash in an article for the Foreign Affairs journal in 1993 that he titled as “the Clash of Civilizations?” The question mark suggested that he had some element of doubt about the thesis. In the book however he dropped the question mark that suggested that any doubt that he had at the time of writing the article had gone and he was convinced that the world was inevitably moving towards a clash between the western world and the world of Islam. He therefore wrote the book as a prescription to the western world to prepare itself in order to be in the position to lead the new world order that would emerge as a result of the clash between the western world and the “Islamic world.”
The events of 9/11 were the perfect breeding ground for such a thesis to find acceptance in the West. Many in the West grabbed Professor Huntington’s theory and used it to justify the heavy price that the Muslims have paid since 9/11 for the crimes of the few terrorists who have been alleged to have committed the dastardly acts on 9/11.
The United States and allied troops went to Afghanistan and later to Iraq in pursuit of those they thought had masterminded the 9/11 attacks and their compatriots. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims, including women and children as “collateral damage” as the US led allied troops pursued Al Qaeda and “Islamic terrorists”.
The US left Iraq a few years ago. It is now preparing to leave Afghanistan with its combat troops numbering 100, 00 together with 40,000 from allied countries by the end of the year. In Iraq, the current semblance of democracy notwithstanding, the country is yet far from becoming the sort of country that the US had promised it would be after it had removed Saddam Hossain for power and hanged him.
Sectarian violence between the Sunnis and Shias resulting in deaths in large numbers are now common place. The US would be leaving Afghanistan by year’s end after its longest war ever with the Taliban showing signs of returning once the US troops leave the country. In fact, between Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has established the cardinal errors in the thesis of Professor Huntington, errors that have been underlined by another scholar of history Edward Said in no uncertain manner. Years before Professor Huntington wrote his book, Edward Said in his book “Orientalism”, written in 1979, had exposed the gross error in the way the western world perceived the Orient. He underlined the West’s failure to understand the internal cultural/religious/ethni divisions and differences among those that made up the Orient among whom were the Muslims.
Edward Said later elaborated his ideas in the light of Professor Huntington’s book and the spin given to it in the West as justification for the actions of the United States and the allied troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In series of lectures and articles, he argued that the Muslims are neither a monolith nor a civilization and that within the so-called Islamic world; there were regional, cultural and sectarian differences that made the argument forwarded by Professor Huntington palpably erroneous. He underlined the differences between the Arab Muslims who constituted only 20 % of the Muslims of the world but perceived in the West as the entire Muslim world and the Muslims elsewhere.
The present situation in Iraq and Afghanistan have destroyed Professor Huntington’s thesis on clash of civilizations further. Instead it underscored the correctness of Edward Said’s arguments about the wrong path taken by the United States and the allies in pursuing their so-called war on terror. In fact, the present situation in the two countries went to establish that the Muslim world was far from being a monolith that Professor Huntington had said it was and in no way ready or interested or even in any position to clash with any civilization, let alone the West. In fact, Muslims are dying at the hands of fellow Muslims suggesting that the clash of civilizations had been used by the West as an excuse to attack Muslim countries and that the Muslim countries had little to do with the clash and instead were the victims.
That the western countries had themselves contributed to the one-sided clash between the West and the Muslim countries has been underlined very recently by no other than Hillary Clinton. In an interview to FOX TV recently, she said that the Taliban in Afghanistan that “we are now fighting” was created by the United States. She also stated that the US acting through Pakistan had sponsored and supplied the other logistics to arm and strengthen the Taliban so that it would work with the Mujahideens to fight the Najibullah Government and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Once the Soviet Union fell and the war in Afghanistan ended, the US withdrew from the region and left Afghanistan to be overtaken by the Taliban and Pakistan to be permanently scarred by the Taliban Frankenenstein that it had helped create. In fact, even Osama Ben Laden’s safe passage from Sudan to Afghanistan was arranged by the US intelligence.
Therefore, the admission from Hilary Clinton that USA had a hand in establishing the Taliban is promising. It shows a sense of responsibility of the West in acknowledging problems in the Muslim countries where the cause of the problems have not been the Muslim countries but the western powers. There are other promising signs in the USA of the country moving away from the position where it was holding Muslims no matter where they came from, responsible for the crimes of few in the context of the events of 9/11. Already, the signs are visible in places like the airports where Muslims no longer feel they are being held up and harassed because of the crimes of the 9/11 terrorists. The US State Department recently came out with a publication available on the internet. It showed how American Muslims, estimated by sources to be close to 7 million, have been integrating in the US mainstream and how their efforts were being supported by the Americans encouraged by the US Government.
If the integration of American Muslims into mainstream America is successful and it looks it is going that way, it could lead to positive developments for integrating the Muslim countries with the West. Muslim Americans have their linkages with hundreds of millions of Muslims in the rest of the world where the message of their successful integration would undoubtedly have positive ramifications. That in turn would no doubt establish the fallacy of Professor Samuel Huntington’s thesis of the clash of civilizations; that a new world order would emerge as a consequence of that clash.
M. Seraj ul Islam is a retired career Ambassador