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Islam and the Clash of Civilizations

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Challenging Nobel Laureate Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 thesis that with the fall the Marxist Communism, the world will converge towards nonconflictual liberal-democracy as its final destiny, Samuel Huntington proposed his "Civilization Clash" theory in 1993. Contradicting Fukuyama’s optimism of a more peaceful world-civilization ahead, Huntington emphasized that conflicts in the world were not over, but future conflicts will be fought along civilizational fault-lines over cultural or religious differences, not between states over ideological (political) or economic reasons. “The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future,” he predicted.

Huntington identified eight major civilizations — Indian, Chinese, Asian, Islamic, Western etc. — and emphasized that instead of converging towards universal liberalism globally, human consciousness within these civilizations is accentuating; people are becoming increasingly parochial and conscious of their cultural, religious or civilizational values and differences.

Huntington analyzed how these civilizations would likely interplay in reshaping the emerging world-order. His thesis gets significant space for Islamic resurgence, simply because, in recent decades, religious revivalism in an intolerant and violent form amongst Muslims much outweighs the rejuvenation of civilizational or religious consciousness amongst other peoples.

On the ongoing civilizational clash of Islam with the rest of humanity, Huntington wrote: “The overwhelming majority of fault line conflicts, however, have taken place along the boundary lopping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims”. He added: “wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors.” Islam has “Bloody Borders”, he asserted.

His analysis vis-à-vis Islam in his thesis has become a bone of contention; he came under intense attacks over this from his critics, led by Edward Said.

Like it or not, Huntington’s thesis is already becoming a reality. Even the followers of Hinduism and Buddhism — both apolitical and pacifist creeds in principle and historically — are becoming increasingly jingoistic, political and even militant. There have been attacks on Christians and churches by Hindus in India and Buddhists in Sri Lanka in recent years. This trend, in all likelihood, would heighten over coming decades.

Despite the denials of his critics, Huntington’s analysis regarding Islam’s clash with its neighbors is based on undeniable ground reality, which has greatly heightened since his theory was proposed in 1993, most prominently after the 9-11 attacks.

A cardinal fact that one may miss in Huntington’s book is that the civilizational clash of Islam is not new; it is as old as Islam itself: fourteen centuries old. Islam was founded by Prophet Muhammad as a “totalitarian and globalist creed” in 7th-century Arabia at the cost of his non-Muslim neighbors: Pagans, Jews and Christians. The Prophet himself  cleansed Arabia of the Pagans. On his deathbed (632), he had ordered his followers to cleanse Arabia of the remaining few Jews and Christians, whom he had allowed to live as ignominious dhimmi subjects in peripheral areas. The second caliph Omar (d. 644) put Muhammad’s last wish to action, denuding Arabia of non-Muslims. He expelled the Jews of Khaybar in 638, for example.

The clash of “Islam versus the rest of humanity”, initiated by Prophet Muhammad at its founding, was widened against all humanity and perpetuated by Muslims over the centuries. It could not be otherwise, because Islam was born in Arabia as Islamic God Allah’s master-plan, His politico-military tool, for creating a global Islamic state by making Muslims His “agent and inheritor of the earth” [Quran 6:165] and promising to make Islam victorious over all peoples and places [Quran 8:39].

Since then, Muslims, including its classical scholars, have divided humanity into two houses, two civilizations: Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) and Dar al-Harb (House of War). Islam’s central mission over the centuries has been to turn the non-Muslim Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam through Jihadi wars to realize Allah’s global imperial dream. Classical Islamic literature is very candid about this. And Islam’s history reflects exactly that.

Islam has achieved stunning success in this mission. Where is are the great pre-Islamic civilizations of Coptic-Paganic Egypt, Zoroastrian Persia, Eastern Christianity of West Asia, Paganic-Animist North Africa, where Islam reached quite early by the sword. They have all vanished. An estimated 120 million human lives were lost to Islamic swords in Africa and 80 million in India. Some 60 million Christians and millions of Buddhists also perished. Readers may consult my just-released book, Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery
, in order the grasp the whole picture of Islam’s historical and ongoing clash with the rest of humanity.

It should be pointed that Judaism and Christianity had their own problem. If the account of the Old Testament is to be believed, at the founding of Judaism, Moses led his enslaved, oppressed Hebrew people out of Egypt to Israel, which was to become their G’d-given homeland; the indigenous people there suffered. But Judaism’s clash with its neighbours theoretically ended there; it was not supposed to spread out of Israel. In reality, they soon became victim of harrowing persecution at their very homeland; their right to live there has been under constant threat, which continues today. Most of all, they have mended their ways: they live in complete harmony with people of all faiths: from India to North America.

Christianity had problems somewhat similar to Islam’s: it dreamt of taking over the world through the instruments of force until the days of Renaissance. Then came the Age Enlightenment, which pushed Christianity out of politics. It has distanced itself from political spheres and violence for a long time.

The same cannot be said of Islam. It has changed little from what it set out to be at its birth. Its clash with global humanity in its age-old violent form continues to this day. Muslims continue to use the instrument of violence and intimidation. The conflicts in Kashmir, Mindanao, Southern Thailand, the Balkans, Chechnya and parts of Africa, plus the violent campaigns of Islamist Al-Qaeda and like-minded terror groups, are a continuation of that. The same applies to Muslim immigrants’ clash with their host societies in the West: their refusal to integrate, open disobedience to respect Western laws and persistent efforts to introduce Islamic laws even in public spheres — social, political and financial.

Whether you agree with Huntington or not, the clash of Islam with the rest of humanity, amongst his theorized conflicts amongst various civilizations, is obviously in the act and will undoubtedly intensify in coming decades. Whilst achieving stunning success in its clash with greater humanity over the past 14 centuries, Islam is most firmly placed than ever to finish off the job — that is, take over the world and institute the governance of the Quran and prophetic tradition — the ultimate ambition, it was born to accomplish.

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About M. A. Khan

  • Arch Conservative

    C’mon don’t you think you’re being a little unfair to Islam? I mean…..radical islamists are only killing the innocents that radical christians, jews, buddhists and hindus can’t be bothered to murder.

  • Doug Hunter

    Somewhat fitting to mark the passage of Sharia law in Somalia. The curtain has fallen over one more state.

    I don’t think your article will receive much love here. Liberals, which now comprise a majority, have this worldview where christians and jews are the bad guys and muslims are just innocent victims.

  • Arch Conservative

    Well Doug that’s because most liberals are useless fucking idiots.

    Just look at who they’ve just chosen to be their new leader, Barry “hope and change” Obama, king of the useless fucking idiots.

  • M. A. Khan

    Yes Doug. Part of Pakistan is already in Allah’s grip; the rest will follow suit in 10-15 years.

  • Cindy


    Promoting this sort of opinion has serious implications. I’m glad you noted that Said opposed Huntington. Edward Said is a person whom I admired. So, I’ll see what he has to say first.

    I guess you weren’t impressed with his criticism?

  • Right, Cindy. E. Said is indispensable reading – kind of seeing both points of view. I’ll look through what I have in order to comment further.

  • Cindy

    Roger I have a good video of Said’s criticism of Huntington if you like. I’ll get it.

  • Cindy

    Said’s criticism of Huntington:

    Edward Said Lecture – The Myth of ‘The Clash of Civilzations’:

    1st 10 minutes of Said’s lecture

    Full 52 minute lecture

    Article: The Clash of Ignorance
    By Edward W. Said, in The Nation, October 4, 2001

  • It’s not a new theme, of course.

    Oswald Spengler The Decline of the West,

    Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History
    Vol I: Introduction; The Geneses of Civilizations
    Vol II: The Geneses of Civilizations
    Vol III: The Growths of Civilizations
    Vol IV: The Breakdowns of Civilizations
    Vol V and VI: The Disintegrations of Civilizations


  • Great. Video part is disabled, but the reference to the article is great.

  • Great article, Cindy. I’m afraid it’d require too much patience on the part of our ideologues to stumble through it, because they already know it all. As regards the quote,

    “It was Conrad, more powerfully than any of his readers at the end of the nineteenth century could have imagined, who understood that the distinctions between civilized London and “the heart of darkness” quickly collapsed in extreme situations, and that the heights of European civilization could instantaneously fall into the most barbarous practices without preparation or transition. And it was Conrad also, in The Secret Agent (1907), who described terrorism’s affinity for abstractions like “pure science” (and by extension for “Islam” or “the West”), as well as the terrorist’s ultimate moral degradation.”

    One might want to add The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, to see how flimsy a veneer the civilization is when the upper-class English schoolboys educated at Eton are left to their own devices on a desert island.

    The reference to Henri Pirenne is also great, since his one-sided thesis helped shaped the thinking of the West:

    “Buried in the collective culture are memories of the first great Arab-Islamic conquests, which began in the seventh century and which, as the celebrated Belgian historian Henri Pirenne wrote in his landmark book Mohammed and Charlemagne (1939), shattered once and for all the ancient unity of the Mediterranean, destroyed the Christian-Roman synthesis and gave rise to a new civilization dominated by northern powers (Germany and Carolingian France) whose mission, he seemed to be saying, is to resume defense of the “West” against its historical-cultural enemies. What Pirenne left out, alas, is that in the creation of this new line of defense the West drew on the humanism, science, philosophy, sociology and historiography of Islam, which had already interposed itself between Charlemagne’s world and classical antiquity. Islam is inside from the start, as even Dante, great enemy of Mohammed, had to concede when he placed the Prophet at the very heart of his Inferno.”

  • Yes Doug. Part of Pakistan is already in Allah’s grip; the rest will follow suit in 10-15 years.

    I admire your optimism. With the ongoing brain drain of Pakistan’s intellectual and middle class going to the UK and the US I give the country no more than 5 years before it falls to a radical Islamic regime.

    When radicalized Islam controls everything from the border of India to the middle of Africa then we just have to sit and wait for Turkey to fall. Then it’s France and Germany. Just a matter of time as things are going now.


  • You’re subscribing to the thesis, then, that ignorance shall prevail – which would signal an entry into another “Dark Ages.” But from strictly historical standpoint, aren’t such episodes rather short-lived and unstable?

  • How predictable that Edward Said should be brought up in the context of this article. Whenever someone writes about the threat of Islam Said, who was not a historian or a political analyst and whose views are remarkably naive and tainted by his early experiences in Palestine, is always the authority of last resort.

    The problem with Said is that he never really got the difference between Islam and the Arab people. He was self-admittedly conflicted about his upbringing as an Arab mostly isolated from Islamic society, and his criticisms of historians like Lewis and Huntington, is that he mistakenly leaps to the defense of Islam as a whole when what he really wants to do is defend the Arab people and differentiate them from the rest of Islam.

    His argument that Islam is more diverse than westerners believe is only valid up to the point where Islam as an international movement takes over from Islam as a local religion. The hard truth which Said was never able to accept, is that the common ground between all muslims regardless of cultural and ethnic background is the Q’ran, and the Q’ran includes in it a fundamental intolerance and demand for the subjugation of other cultures. It’s an inescapable fact, and no matter how congenial, educated or cosmopolitan Arabs or other muslims are on an individual basis, the religion still has these problems when you look at it as a whole.


  • Cindy


    I noticed that you have said more than once that you can’t get video–yet the video was/is available.

    If you would like help with finding out why you can’t and how you might get video, let me know.

    The longer said lecture is excellent. I wouldn’t want to have missed it.

  • Someone like Said’s voice has got to brought to the conversation, or we just have to go along with a one-sided view, such as one by Huntington or his exponent, Khan. You may not agree with Said’s analysis, but the alternative is even worse. Should we just become captive to an idea without discussing it?

  • You’re subscribing to the thesis, then, that ignorance shall prevail – which would signal an entry into another “Dark Ages.” But from strictly historical standpoint, aren’t such episodes rather short-lived and unstable?

    Short-lived from a historical viewpoint is still longer than you or I are likely to live, Roger. The patterns are obvious. The intellectuals and the wealthy and the skilled move to where their talents are in the most demand, leaving behind the ignorant and the easily swayed. As a religion Islam has no use for intellectuals or even the middle class. It’s openly hostile to them. Conditions in the Islamic world and the increasingly radical direction Islam is going, guarantee that those who could stop the spread of darkness move to the west.

    Look at Edward Said who we brought up earlier. He was a great advocate for moderate Islam and Palestinian rights. Did he move back to Palestine or even Egypt so he could have a positive influence? Hell no. He stayed nice and safe here in the US. Hypocritical, perhaps, but a sign of good sense, and an example which thousands of others have followed.

    The population becomes more ignorant, Islam becomes more intolerant, the remaining intellectuals and minorities leave and take their skills with them until all you have left is a repressive system of religious radicals, hereditary elitists, ignorant peasants and slaves. That’s the future of Islam, and even if Said wouldn’t admit it, that’s why he and others got the hell out.


  • Should we just become captive to an idea without discussing it?

    We can continue to discuss it, but we’re just rehashing Said’s argument with Bernard Lewis where Said ended up resorting to ad hominems because he couldn’t defend Islam effectively on a historical basis or on the basis of current events, and it’s just gotten worse since Said died.

    By all accounts Said was a really nice guy and his literary criticism is interesting, but he was a fool when it came to politics.


  • Cindy


    It is even more “predictable” given that the author’s article cites Said as a critic.

    lol Dave, Said’s views are “tainted”. If you agree with them, my guess is the adjective you used, would have been “informed”.

    Well, Dave Huntington might be a bit on the “tainted” side himself.

    Let’s see you defend his positions based on some of his other attitudes, which speak pretty loudly about what he really is.

    Hispanic Panic
    Samuel P. Huntington and the return of the Know-Nothings.

    SAMUEL P. HUNTINGTON is a bigot, convinced that immigrant hordes are poisoning our Anglo-Protestant America. This in itself is not surprising; there have always been plenty of his kind on the American scene. Nor is it surprising that this bigot is a professor at Harvard. Nativism, in its 19th-century surge, was very much the darling cause of the New England elites.

    What is surprising is that now, a century and a half after the Know-Nothings vanished in disgrace, Huntington feels free to promote his nativist hatred in print, and can be celebrated for doing so. Post-9/11 America, as John le Carre has said, has lost its mind. Huntington’s screeching is a worthy contribution to the bedlam.

    Huntington disguises a disingenuous question as a scholarly inquiry in his sleazy new book, Who Are We? The Challenge to America’s National Identity (Simon & Schuster, $27). The question is disingenuous because Huntington already has an answer, the same one that has been peddled by American bigots for hundreds of years: America is and must remain an Anglo-Protestant culture.

    Huntington’s plan for America’s salvation requires “a recommitment to America as a deeply religious and primarily Christian country…adhering to Anglo-Protestant values, speaking English, maintaining its European cultural heritage, and committed to the principles of the [American] Creed…”

    Our Anglo-Protestant culture is under threat, according to Huntington, from the Latin hordes sneaking across our southern borders. Huntington violently hates Hispanics, especially Mexicans. The point of this book is to infect the reader with the same fear and hatred. In the process, this eminent academic is more than willing to dirty his hands with the sort of hatemongering anecdote Pat Buchanan would refuse to touch. His favorite, so special that he tells it at the beginning of the book and again at the end, is…
    (continued at the link)

  • Cindy

    Sorry for the long quote. I think it’s important that no one reading this article has to actually apply any effort to go elsewhere and see what Huntington is.

  • Dave,

    It won’t advance your cause one bit by calling people names, like “a fool” here – unless of course your intent is to prejudice those who are not going to get through Said for a variety of reasons. So let’s just forget that and get down to cases. In a sense, it’s a blessing here because this discussion can be delimited to few participants.

    We’re not discussing here Said’s view of politics but his view of civilizations and cultures. Whereas the contrary view, the one you’re opposing, takes no consideration of Said’s argument – and that view (as well as Said’s, indirectly at least) affects and informs the political view(s) that are being espoused. So let’s get clear on that before we can even begin, shall we?


  • Cindy, you’re only inviting hotheads into the discussion. It’s precisely what I want to avoid, because resorting to name-calling, like “bigot,” is going to degenerate this thread to the point neither you nor I would want to have anything to do with it. It’s Dave’s trick, and we want to cure him of that, don’t we? especially when there’s likely to be not much of an audience.


  • PS: I don’t mean to be disagreeable here, only a suggestion.

  • Cindy


    I disagree for a few reasons:

    1) I don’t want to cure Dave (or anyone else) of anything. It’s information, they can do whatever they want with it.

    2) I don’t think Dave realized what kind of mentality he was defending, and

    3) The critique I offered, makes the point very loud and clear, and therefore,

    4) It offers a better counter to the Huntington and his ideas than I could do myself with 42 pages of argument, and

    5) I really don’t care for arguing for argument’s sake alone. So, if something quickly illustrates my point, that is what I will use.

  • I just want the discussion to deteriorate to name-calling, which it very well may. It’s not the argument that’s at stake here but the inherent ideas. So I want him to discuss that rather than trying to dodge.
    Yes, David does – if it wasn’t for Huntington, it would be somebody else. He’s committed to his view of things, remember, because of whatever’s his perspective. Ultimately, it’s those ideas that are the proper object of discussion and the battleground.

  • “don’t want to”

  • Cindy

    Dave has written articles on immigrants. He isn’t a racist or a bigot. He’s also not a religious believer. I would be very shocked to see him defend Huntington.

  • Cindy

    But, okay, I will try to be cooperative.

  • Cindy, I don’t know much about Huntington – though I know more now, thanks. He sounds like a nativist idiot. But that doesn’t mean that he’s wrong about Islam, since he seems to have lifted his argument wholesale from Bernard Lewis who actually does know what he’s talking about.

    Roger, when I describe Said as a “fool” that’s not derogatory, it’s purely descriptive. I’m using it in the sense that he has allowed spurious cultural beliefs to “fool” him into believing something on the basis of facts which are largely irrelevant rather than focusing on the real problem. I suppose I could substitute the word “dupe” instead, except that he has duped himself, so “fool” seems more appropraite.

    We’re not discussing here Said’s view of politics but his view of civilizations and cultures.

    You can’t divide the two when talking about Islam. His positive view of Islam was influenced by his cultural sympathies transferred from Arab civilization to Islam inappropriately.


  • Again, he is not necessarily defending Huntington here but that particular view of Islam. And it has nothing to do with his being a racist or a bigot or not – just his view of geopolitics and the West’s (or America’s) presumed supremacy, and the threat he perceives as being posed by Islam.

  • Cindy

    Ideas along those lines did not escape me. However, Huntington is now out of the way. Not only for Dave, but perhaps for other people who come to read this article. Therefore, I accomplished what I wanted to.

  • I’d like to share your optimism. Watch how quickly they’ll resurface.

  • Cindy

    What will resurface?

  • The view espoused by Khan.

  • As I said before, the basic conclusion Khan draws is not incorrect, even if his sources are suspect.


  • OK – we’ve got an argument then. And that’s a good start.

  • M. A. Khan

    Dave, I gave 10-15 years for Pakistan to fall to the Islamists to keep a safety mark. Five years could be sufficient, maybe a little longer.

    Edward Said fans should also consult Ibn Warraq’s “Defending the West”—a rebuttal to Said’s Orientalism.

    Nonetheless, Huntington got little of the depth of Islam’s war against non-Muslim humanity. It’s more clearly and succinctly outlined in the Quran and other classical Islamic texts and in Islam’s history. Huntington bothered little to consult them.

  • Dave/Khan,

    We’ll do, but don’t foreclose the discussion yet, Khan. I realize you’re a fan of the West and just like Dave, have a great stake in its survival. So I do understand your motivation. What I believe this argument is ultimately about is a larger view transcending the present conflict, the coming together of cultures, things of that sort – in short, “survival” in a larger, more comprehensive and enlightened sense. And I wouldn’t like to see neither you, nor Dave, nor anybody for that matter, foreclose that question or discussion thereof on account of your justified or unjustified fears.

    Fair enough?

  • Roger, I don’t fear the destruction of the west or anything that trite. I’m more concerned about what the west will turn into in response to an external threat of the magnitude of a militant Islamic pseudo-empire. I’m also not a big fan of the harm which fundamentalist islam is bringing on all the reasonable, moderate people living under their control, or the growth of slavery within the confines of islam or the myriad other ills of a theocracy which rules based on archaic law with no accountability.


  • bliffle

    FWIW, I’ve never been a fan of Said, either. His whole “Orientalism” notion looks like a big Strawman to me. I don’t think he carries his point.

    But I know little about Huntington, so to me it looks like a battle between chumps, not champs.

  • Fair enough, Dave, we’re delimiting the problem.

    I’ll have to re-read the Orientalism thesis, bliffle, to continue this dialogue.

  • See if you can find some of the articles that went back and forth in The Nation about 7 years ago between Said and Lewis. IMO Said doesn’t come off well in them.


  • Cindy

    Whether or not Said’s Orientalism has its problems, doesn’t discount everything he’s said.

    I posted the link to the 52 minute video. There is everything I respect said for in it.

    That’s all I have to say.

  • Cindy

    Except I would have rather capitalized his name the second time. 🙂

  • M. A. Khan


    Undoubtedly I have some concern about the West, because I believe in freedom and liberty, I am a liberal; only the West allows that to good extent, which is being curtailed with the arrival of Muslim immigrants.

    My greater concern is for people living in Islamic countries. Those millions of non-Muslims living in Saudi Arabia, with no liberty to open practice and discussion of their beliefs. Carrying a Bible or Geeta brings jail-terms, preaching to Muslims brings death. The same exist all over the Muslim world in varying extents. Like in Malaysia, they have set up well-structured ministry for converting non-Muslims to Islam, but preaching other creeds to Muslims lands you in jail.

    Since the 1947 Partition of India, tens of millions of people had to evacuate Bangladesh and Pakistan and move to India to avoid persecution, harrasment, discrminiation and violence. The Hindu population has dropped from 25-30% to <10% in Bangladesh, from 10% to ~1% in Pakistan. This a quiet ethnic cleansing of massive proportion, which makes little headline. Non-Muslims face the same situation in all Islamic countries. Ask the Egyptian Copts, Christians in Palestine...

    It's a life of agony in Islamic countries for people, who believe in freedom and liberty. My friends back home, who have left Islam, must pretend to be pious Muslim: they must pray and fast regularly. Brother, you would understand little how torturous it is when you have to worship something you don't believe, especially when a man, who was a mass-murderer, mass-enslaver and rapist, a barbarian. Last night a friend told me: "I am dying like this, living a double life."

    BTW, Ibn Warraq wrote a few articles on Ed Said, if you are interested:

    The Sins of Edward Said
    Islam and Intellectual Terrorism
    Orientalism: Debunking Edward Said

  • Hi all,

    I was kinda busy with real life issues yesterday and could not read M.A. Khan’s fine article. If you go to his site, you see that he is a fallen away Moslem. So, like Baritone, or Shark (the real Shark, not that shmendrik who showed up on Jamal’s article about Gaza recently), who are non-believers, who fell away from Christianity, he goes after most the religion he fell away from, Islam. He is not being “unfair” at all.

    Once you look at the article in this light, it is clear why he goes after Islam. He, as someone raised as a Moslem, feels he knows what the hell he is talking about. What Mr. Khan is all about is outing the skeletons in Islam’s closet from the point of view of someone who knows what they stink like.

    At the very least, his views should be respected at that level.

    I do not agree with Huntington’s thesis – because I think a different Agenda is really driving events. Unlike M.A. Khan, I’m a believer, and as such believe that ultimately G-d runs the world.

    But, if you are not a believer, Huntington’s thesis is a reasonable one to hang the facts on – because it does indeed seem that there is a clash of civilizations going on. One can look beyond the Middle East to India for example, where Moslems kill Hindus, Hindus kill Moslems (and Sikhs, and Christians, and anyone else who pisses them off).

    In Europe, the split between the Walloons and the Flemish in Belgium is only hidden by the violence of the Moslems living there against both, and much can be said about the rest of Europe. The English do not like the Scots, the Scots do not like the English, the Welsh like neither and all are not necessarily in love with the Irish. Heck, look at American attitudes towards the Spanish speakers there from the motley of lands south of the Rio Grande! And give another listen to “American Woman” by The Guess Who to understand what Canadians really think of America.

    Communalism and potential violence between communal groups is the order of the day, not some past experience buried by progress or the “defeat” of Communism.

    I hear much mention here of the late George Saïd, an Arab who did what he could to add meat to the plastic Lego skeleton of “Palestinian identity” constructed by the Husseini family in their propaganda struggle to delegitimize Jewish claims over her homeland, the Land of Israel. The late Saïd’s politics were identity politics. When writer Justus Weiner demonstrated how much the late George Saïd had lied about his identity, he stripped the man of much of his credibility.

    The only good thing that can be said about the late George Saïd is that at least he wasn’t a self-hating Jew!

    As for further reading material, I strongly recommend Melanie Phillips “Londonistan”, and am working my way through M.A. Khan’s own book, “Islamic Jihad”, and will report back to you in due time.

  • Ruvy,

    Edward Said, Ruvy. And I believe he wan an Egyptian. Do you know otherwise?
    But I’d be more interested why faith makes a difference here – i.e., why nonbelievers are more apt to subscribe to “the clash” thesis than the believers? Could you please?


  • Khan,

    The following is one example of less than accurate interpretation by Ibn Warraq. Consider:

    “Said makes much of Aeschylus’s The Persians, and its supposed creation of the “Other” in Western civilization. You would think that Aeschylus might be forgiven his moment of triumphalism in describing the battle on which the very existence of fifth-century Athens depended and in which he very likely took part—the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. There the Greeks destroyed or captured 200 ships and lost forty. For Aeschylus it symbolized the triumph of liberty over tyranny, Athenian democracy over Persian Imperialism. The Persians were ruthless imperialists, hated by several generations of Greeks.

    Had Said bothered to delve into Greek civilization and history, or even simply to read Herodotus, he might have encountered two prime characteristics of Western thought: the search for knowledge for its own sake, and the West’s profound belief in the unity of mankind—in other words the West’s universalism. Said seems instead to be at pains to conceal this idea, to refuse to allow it. The Greek word, historia, from which we get our “history,” means “research” or “inquiry.” Herodotus believed his work was the outcome of research; what he had seen, heard, and read, but supplemented and verified by inquiry. For Herodotus, “historical facts have intrinsic value and rational meaning.” He was devoid of racial prejudice—indeed Plutarch later branded him a philobarbaros, whose nearest modern equivalent would be “nigger-lover.” His work shows considerable sympathy for Persians and Persian civilization. Herodotus represents Persians as honest—”they”

    It’s quite a leap the author makes from the mindset of the ancient Greeks – after the best tradition by such as Herodotus, Aeschylus and Plutarch – to that of the much much later Europeans. One cannot just assert this kind of continuity throughout the ages of history: it must be argued for.

    The Greeks were the model in most every respect. Some view the human history, and with good justification, as ever gradual decline from the exemplar that the ancient Greece represented – starting with Rome and onwards.

  • Sorry for the error, Roger. Must’ve been thinking about something else….

    why nonbelievers are more apt to subscribe to “the clash” thesis than the believers? Could you please?

    A believer – at least in the Hebrew Bible – sees a clash between nations being driven by the Almighty to the end of bringing about the Judgment and Redemption of Mankind. All the rest is just window dressing for the main issue and event. A non-believer either doesn’t have this on his radar – or dismisses it as a matter of principle.

    This leaves Huntington’s thesis (or some other equivalent) as a reasonable alternative to cover the facts at hand. This doesn’t mean that the non-believer HAS to subscribe to Huntington’s thesis. He can choose a zillion other explanations running around. But he is more likely to choose Huntington’s thesis (or a varying point of view) than the idea of G-d running the fate of Man.

  • M. A. Khan

    Roger, I agree with you. There wasn’t a continuity. And I don’t think, Ibn Warraq meant that either. Said’s target is Orientalism, an Enlightenment-age or modern scholarship of the Eastern world, which Said turn into a prejudiced anti-Muslim diatribe. And Enlightenment was mostly Europe’s rediscovery of classical Greek tradition, its classical past. Enlightenment-age reconnected Europe with ancient Greece. Modern West, target of Said’s vetuperatives, is a continuation of that. I think that’s what Ibn Warraq tried to point to in saying, ” West’s profound belief in the unity of mankind—in other words the West’s universalism”. He’s definitely not ignorant of the Dark Age in Europe.

  • It does argue for, Ruvy, for adopting a larger perspective, doesn’t? The greater the horizon, the more miniscule our problems appear.

  • Cindy

    Khan, et al…

    I’ve looked over Warraq’s articles. Including another I found called, Why the West Is Best.

    My impression of Warraq, is that his positions seem to expand ideas similar to “American Exceptionalism” into “Western Exceptionalism”. Therefore he is biased to begin with. He reveres the West through a utopianized lens.

    Reducing cultures down to a description that fits in a sentence is also unhelpful. Said is pointing out that this is tantamount to looking at the world as if it is engaged in a fight between Popeye and Bluto.

    Ruvy’s post #46 is a nice example that illustrates this problem:

    Ruvy writes:

    But, if you are not a believer, Huntington’s thesis is a reasonable one to hang the facts on – because it does indeed seem that there is a clash of civilizations going on. One can look beyond the Middle East to India for example, where Moslems kill Hindus, Hindus kill Moslems (and Sikhs, and Christians, and anyone else who pisses them off).

    In Europe, the split between the Walloons and the Flemish in Belgium is only hidden by the violence of the Moslems living there against both, and much can be said about the rest of Europe. The English do not like the Scots, the Scots do not like the English, the Welsh like neither and all are not necessarily in love with the Irish. Heck, look at American attitudes towards the Spanish speakers there from the motley of lands south of the Rio Grande! And give another listen to “American Woman” by The Guess Who to understand what Canadians really think of America.

    Communalism and potential violence between communal groups is the order of the day, not some past experience buried by progress or the “defeat” of Communism.

    What about the English who don’t hate the Scots and vice versa? What about all those who don’t fit these convenient stereotypes? That is what Said is arguing against, in his critique of Huntington. And I would also apply this to Warraq’s oversimplifications too.

    Further, what I take from Said is this–if you insist on reducing entire cultures and people down into these stereotypes, then you are going to promote and create the very divisions you are claiming are the problem.

    These reductions are personal constructs, not accurate portrayals of reality. It makes it easy to talk about “the west” vs “the east”, vs…etc. Propagating them is not likely to correct any problems. It is divisive. It pits all against all. Doing this, by necessity, ignores the facets of reality that could be used to unite–the counter culture that exists in opposition to the dominant one, for example. The friends you mention who are non-believers, where do they figure in to this?

    If you want to criticism Islam, Christianity, Judaism, I am all for it. If you see violence in religion or its books, I’ll agree with you.

    However, pitting “us” against “them”, and then promoting this idea into the general consensus is asking for what you see. Sometimes what you see is what you get.

    I think I will have to look at Bernard Lewis as Dave suggested.

  • Khan,

    I would agree with you, Khan, that Said may have oversimplified his Orientalism thesis to the extent that he tended to group all Western scholars into one category and who were thus declared “guilty as charged.” No doubt, there were exceptions as Ibn Warraq alludes to – German scholarship, for instance. It’s also true that the Enlightenment represented a welcome return to the classical standards and models of objectivity, as outlined by Herodotus, for example.

    But having said that, one still cannot altogether E. Said’s thesis concerning European, and especially British ethnocentrism – and that, without question, did color some of the British/European scholarship. It’s only natural that it would. My understanding further is that E. Said wasn’t alone – that there were others voices, like Foucault’s and Derrida’s, who echoed the same or similar themes in some of their works. And my confidence in the utmost intellectual integrity of those sources is unshakable. These are giants of the twentieth century thought.

    Why? Even before having been introduced to the Orientalism theme, my own reading of Bernard Lewis left me somewhat unsatisfied – scholar that he is; and I could cite any number of British anthropologists and historians who were equally prone to display however slight bias in their works on the Orient. So my argument here is that while it may be a corrective to take everything that Said had said with a grain of salt, we can’t altogether discount him.

    There’s always more than one way to look at the world – as “us” vs “them,” as Cindy mentioned a comment above, or in a more comprehensive way leading to a kind of synthesis and merging of cultures. And there is sufficient evidence to argue for the more enlightened of the alternative which, if pursued with intelligence and ingenuity in the realm of foreign policy, is likely to produce more happy results. To be returning in this day and age to the “crusader mentality” would be taking a giant step backwards.

  • “cannot altogether discount”

  • bliffle

    M. A. Khan said:

    “I am a liberal; only the West allows that to good extent, which is being curtailed with the arrival of Muslim immigrants.”

    I think that Kahn has put his finger on the crux of the problem.

    If the muslims would stay in their own geography we wouldn’t care too much about them. We know from experience that we can suborn mere mortal muslim leaders into selling us oil, etc.

    At a distance they are kinda alright. As long as they stay in their own sandbox. If they get waaayyy too uppity we have 6,000 nukes we can blast them with. It’s reasonable to figure that venal muslims, no matter how fervid their religious expression, are not so anxious to meet Their Maker after bringing down the destruction of their people. That’s just propaganda to fire the enthusiasm of young fools with Hot Loins for war.

    It’s the immigration of hotheads that many feel is dangerous. That there might be the establishment of a “Fifth Column” from within.

    But Americans have always felt that the power of the culture is enough to overwhelm nasty foreign imported cultures and convert people to home-owning, mortgage paying, college fund saving, two car families that keep them on the straight and narrow.

    Of course, we failed with the native Indians whose land we dispossessed, but we keep trying.

    And maybe it’s true.

    But what happens if the economy collapses? What if denizens of the USA can no longer see a value in struggling to acculturate? Might not, then, these primitive religious notions re-emerge and assert themselves?

    Stay tuned, boys and girls.

  • Cindy


    Make that Foucault, Derrida, and earlier Gramsci.

  • I didn’t see that before, bliffle, as part of Khan’s concern. You may be right.

  • Cindy

    I found another good critique of Huntington and the whole concept of clash of civilizations. Here is one of the several ideas presented in The Non-Clash of Civilizations.

    The Causes of Clashes:

    No matter how it’s sliced, diced, proposed or presented, governments and not people, determine clashes between nations. Nations clash when their economic interests are threatened or when they find an opportunity to expand economic interests. Western civilization’s capitalist system is characterized by constant change, which means it must grow to increase profit. The growth demands expansion of markets and capture of sufficient resources to maintain industrial output. Cultural identity and civilization may arouse the troops but they don’t provide the friction for clashes.


    Examine carefully all the major strifes in the world; Sudan, Israel/Palestine, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Congo, Iraq, Northern Ireland and those in Latin American countries, and the facades of cultural or religious conflicts are replaced by the actual reasons for the conflicts: oppression, territorial gain, domination, economic advantage, unfair distribution of power. All the conflicts might be resolved if justice prevailed. Perceived injustice, the umbrella for all the reasons, is the cause of the conflicts.

    This makes much more sense to me.

  • But this could be reduced further yet. There’s no justice because everyone is power-mad.

  • “The destruction of Iraq, a nation that could have been a core state of a revived and more independent Arab world, is only a start of destruction mis-labeled as a “clash of civilizations.” Contrary to M.J. Akbur, we are more likely to expect the expanse of territory from the Maghreb to Pakistan to be subdued to the economic and political interests of others.”

    The following I find significant, too, from the link provided by Cindy in #58. However, my prediction is that Iraq will return to its former status as potential epicenter for rebuilding a more independent Arab world once the U.S. gets out of there.

  • I’m with you, Roger. The “destruction” of Iraq was hardly destruction in the long term. Saddam had already degraded its infrastructure and economy enormously before it was ever invaded. Removing him from power will ultimately allow Iraq to reassert itself and live up to its considerable potential as a nation.