Monday, February 19, 2007

The Myth of the "Clash of Civilizations"

No matter how hard many world leaders are trying, the people aren't buying - the myth of the "Clash of Civilizations" that is.

A BBC World Service poll of over 28,000 respondents across 27 countries found that a majority of people worldwide believe the tensions between Islam and the West are due to conflicts over political power and interests - not from differences of religion and culture.

“Most people around the world clearly reject the idea that Islam and the West are caught in an inevitable clash of civilizations,” said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

A majority also agree that violent conflict between Islam and the West is not inevitable. Only 28% think that violent conflict is inevitable, while twice as many (56%) believe that "common ground can be found."
- Source
You can also read the BBC Story

What do Canadians think?

More than seven in ten Canadians believe common ground can be found between Muslim and Western cultures. Seventy-three percent say that common ground can be found, while just 16 percent believe that violent conflict is inevitable. A significant majority (56%) of Canadians sees “conflicts about political power and interests” as the source of tensions between Islam and the West, while fewer than three in ten (29%) believe they arise from religious and cultural differences. Three in four Canadians (74%) also see intolerant minorities as a primary reason for tensions between Islam and the West compared to just 19 percent who blame cultural differences. Fifty-five percent of Canadians fault intolerant minorities on both sides, far more than those who specifically cite a Muslim (12%) or Western (7%) minority. (SOURCE

At least two illustrious leaders, however, like to make the case that there is a deeper cultural or religious conflict. George Bush, right after 9/11:
Americans are asking, why do they [terrorists] hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

Which is of course, ridiculous. They don't hate the West's "freedoms". If anything, they hate our Imperialism.

Stephen Harper, in a speech speech to B'nai Brith
But the fact is this: those who attacked Israel – and those who sponsor such attacks – don’t seek merely to gain some leverage, to alter some boundary, or to right some wrong.

They seek what they and those like them have always sought – the destruction of Israel and the destruction of the Jewish people.

Why? A thousand complicated rationalizations but only one simple reason – because the Jews are different. Because the Jews are not like them.

Again, ridiculous. As if it were possible to find "one simple reason" for Israel-Palestine, but if you had to, probably it would be the extreme imbalance of power and resources - oppression due to occupation - not because they are "different". Does he also think Iraq's insurgents do it because Americans are "different"?

The right-wing media is even more blunt. Bill O'Reilly says "if Islam didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be a war on terror." Heidi Harris continually refers to "Islamic fascists" on Hardball (a term Amy Goodman thankfully calls her on, labeling it "racist" and "disgusting").

Much of the MSM's discussion of war and terrorism is done within this "cowboys and Indians" frame, in which we are the good guys and they are the evildoers. At best, it's lazy and at worst it's sickening bigotry.

For an example, see my analysis of the portrayal of the recent conflict in Somalia.


Dan said...

Jenny -

I think both you and Bush are both right:

1) Obviously, they don't hate us just because of our Freedoms.

2) However, they also don't hate us because of our Imperialistic tendencies.

Islamic Fascists (I have no idea why you're offended by the term. It's clearly not racist as Islam isn't a race) hate us because we're different AND we have imperialistic tendencies.

They see us as unworthy barbarians who have defied Allah yet are still allowed to be more powerful, more successful, and more influential than their own.

There are 3 historically great Civilizations in this world:

1) The Islamic Civilization
2) The Chinese Civilization
3) Western Civilization

Right now, Western Civilization is the dominant one. The other two feel slighted by this. But while China tries to play catch-up by sending their kids to Harvard, Islam, more simply, tries to pull us down by trying to blow Harvard up.

Kuri said...

Exactly. Terrorism is simply a military strategy. Perhaps not the most ethical one, but finding an ethical military strategy is perhaps a bit like finding the Holy Grail. The sooner we demystify terrorism, the sooner we can deal with it fairly and effectively. This news is an encouraging step in that direction.