Written by @TheArabianNazi.. A former Twitter user.
“Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards.” (Huntington, 1996, p. 258)Huntington reasserts in his book “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” three years after the release of his controversial “Clash of Civilizations?” thesis which was widely criticized for its misconceptions about the Muslim identity and the nature of relations between the West and Islam. Huntington bases his thesis on the assumption that civilizational grouping is a legitimate paradigm of world politics that replaces the paradigms that were advanced after the Cold War such as the economic division between the Global North and the Global South and the cultural division between the West and the East. His identification of seven distinct civilizations (Western, Latin American, Islamic, Chinese, Japanese, Orthodox and Hindu) is followed by the hypothesis that world politics will no longer revolve around ideology or economy but rather civilizational differences and conflicts, especially between the West and Islam. His emphasis on the volatility of relations between the two civilizations stems from his understanding of Islam as a dominant source of cultural identification to Muslims around the world; “Muslims in massive numbers [are] simultaneously shifting towards Islam as a source of identity, meaning, stability, legitimacy, development, power and hope, hope epitomized in the slogan ‘Islam is the solution’” (Huntington, 1996, p. 109). However, it is not the characteristics that Huntington generalized to be true of Muslim populations alone that make their relations with the West troublesome, it is rather Muslim states acting along civilizational lines because their interests are shaped by their Islamic culture, values and aspirations that, to him, are a source of conflict with the West. This paper aims to challenge Huntington’s understanding of the ‘Islamic civilization’ by providing an analysis of the extent to which Islam constitutes the identity of Muslims and dictates the actions of Muslim states and their attitudes towards the West.
Interest in Huntington’s Clash of Civilization has climaxed after 9/11 because it was perceived in the eyes of many as a prophecy come true. Whether this is true or not lies beyond the scope of this paper, however, I will focus on some of the concepts Huntington assumed to be defining features of the Islamic civilization and of which relevance to the horrific incident were overemphasized; Jihad and inherent hostility in particular, to assert that the nature of relations between the West and Islam can hardly be associated with what Huntington perceives Muslims to adhere to. But before that, I will critically assess the vague notion of “civilization identity” upon which Huntington bases the majority of his argument. There is no such thing as one Ummah (Islamic nation) and there is definitely no such thing as one Islam for diversity of schools of thoughts within Islam is not only remarkable in degrees of difference but has also triggered a significant number of conflicts between people of the Quran that, to many Muslims, raise concerns prior to the Western ‘threat’. I also aim to assess the claim that Western values such as democracy, civil rights and liberty that the West seeks to promote are incompatible with the nature of Islam. The absence of a common ground in those respects, according to Huntington and other theorists of the Clash of Civilization paradigm, constitutes a source of clash between the West and Islam for the former is determinant to spread these values and the latter is determinant to resist them. Naturally, therefore, I will argue that that since there is no ‘Muslim identity’, and no fundamental differences over values that the West promotes as ‘universal’, there are also no civilizational lines along which both Muslim people and states act in defiance to the West. Empirical evidence suggests that conflicts between the West and Islam are better understood in nationalist terms; it is pan-Arabism, not Pan-Islamism, as Huntington suggests, that mainly influences Muslim nations’ attitudes towards the West.
When Huntington identified the Islamic civilization as a singular entity and emphasized the central role of religion in his theory of a civilizational ‘clash’, he overlooked the internal dynamics and plurality of the Islamic world (Said, 2006, p.2). It cannot be denied that Islam is an important ideological and sociological factor in Middle Eastern politics. However, the Identity of 1.57 billion Muslims cannot be constructed through religion alone. If we assume for the sake of argument, that all Muslims do abide by Islamic teachings, and identify themselves as religious, the religiosity of each individual differs in terms of degree, expression, and doctrine that in turn translates into various forms of identities, that is assuming that religion indeed constitutes identity. The culturalist approach Huntington adopts in his understanding of Muslim culture, perceived as a fairly homogenous set of values that represents the ultimate explanatory model of any Muslim society, focuses on the wrong question; “[it] is not what the Quran actually says, but what Muslims say the Quran says” (Roy, 2005, p.10). As the answer most certainly differs from a Muslim to another, so does the degree to which one allows his identity to be expressed through Islam. Tariq Ramadan notes: “As Arab and Muslim societies have entered into a phase of renewal, an understanding of how unity and diversity function within the Islamic reference is a matter of vital importance” (Ramadan, 2012, p. 73). It is legitimate to speak of one Islam on a primary religious level, which all traditions and schools of law agree upon and it includes the six pillars that constitute the creed, the five pillars of Islam that detail the rituals like prayer, fasting and pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca and some obligations and prohibitions such as abstinence from alcohol and drugs (Ramadan, 2012, p.73). None of the pillars can account to the constitution of identity because they belong to the private sphere in an individual’s life and do not influence or direct his conduct and interactions; they serve spiritual purposes like hope, optimism, empathy, etc. It is differences in interpreting the Quran that produce different Islamic practices and ideals. It is best observed through religious grouping of Muslim states; those that are geographically approximate to each other more often than not follow similar schools of thought and vice versa which indicates that Islam did not produce a homogenous culture in Muslim countries; it is rather the dominant culture in those countries that produced fairly different forms of Islam compatible with local values and aspirations. The Saudi ‘version’ of Islam is almost identical in other GCC countries like Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar and is significantly different than that of Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. For example, it is entrenched in the Gulf social conduct, that handshaking a person of the opposite sex is unacceptable. This belief stems from the Shafi’i Islamic doctrine, which restricts cross-gender interactions to a minimum. Whereas in Lebanon, not only are handshakes acceptable; they are often followed by a hug, even amongst people who would identify themselves as “religious”.
Olivier Roy in “Globalized Islam” describes this diversity in adherence to religion across Muslim countries through what he refers to as ‘new forms of religiosity’ that imply “the predominance of religiosity (self-formulation and self-expression of a personal faith) over religion (a coherent corpus of beliefs and dogmas collectively managed by a body of legitimate holders of knowledge)” (Roy, 2005, p. 5). It is important to distinguish religiosity from religion in any attempt to link the identity of Muslims to Islam because even if we assume that Islam is a fixed, ‘timeless’ doctrine, the degree to which it represents Muslims is a personal choice subjected to various influences, of which creed per se constitutes a small part when compared to history, experience, family, social status and literacy, etc. It is a clear simplification, therefore, to perceive Islam as such a source of identity, explanation, and moral code for all actions undertaken by Muslims (Halliday, 2003, p. 114).
Despite that the Islamic vision of a singular unified Islam is desirable to the majority of Muslims; it is nevertheless a myth that to this day had not been realized and advanced as an actual goal; in simple, harsh words, it is merely the product of wishful thinking. Islamist movements, whether it is Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Salafi Noor party, all share the generic goal of establishing a reformed, unified social structure, of which foundation is Sharia law. Muslims and Westerners alike understand Sharia law – the source of legislation and moral conduct in Islam- as the ultimate, unaltered expression of God that theoretically, despite the environment in which it is adapted, is capable of producing a homogenous social and political structure. On practical grounds however, it is a legal system that adapts and changes in accordance to the social structure of states that adopts it (Rehman, 2005, p.16). Take the case of Saudi, a kingdom that adapts the Quran and its derived Sharia law as its sole constitution; a constitution that obligates the state to unify Muslims everywhere and contain conflicts within the Islamic world in various explicit texts. Saudi has a complicated relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood; it was a refuge for members of the Brotherhood during the days of Ba’athist secular president Gamal Abdul-Nasser, a period of time that witnessed infusion of the Brother political thought with Saudi Salafism. From the 1990s onwards, religious satellite television has increased in popularity and thus came to be “one of the most strategic entry points to spreading the Wahabi-Salafi ideology” (Tadros, 2012, p.11). As technology advanced, government censorship became no longer an obstacle to the Brotherhood whom Islamic brand significantly differs from that of Saudi, and they were free to spread it. Gradually, the dynamics of political Islam have changed and more dramatically so, when the Arab Spring broke through. To Saudi, the Brothers were no longer citizens; but parasites, no longer men of God; but men of Satan. What has changed was not the religious discourse of Saudi that derives from a holy book written over 1400 years ago, or that of the Brotherhood that derives from writings of Hassan Al-Banna and Sayyed Qutb; it was the political discourse. Both Saudi and the Brotherhood promote unification of the Ummah, but as I stated earlier, this did not translate into any action because ironically, the Ummah today is more divided than it ever was as both Saudi and the Brotherhood compete through media to win support from the Muslim public. This is especially evident after the recent Saudi-Qatar rivalry at which center lies Saudi’s objection against Qatar’s pro-Brotherhood policies. According to Saudi officials, the Brothers run a “terrorist organization” that is jeopardizing security and stability in the Gulf region and was often described as hypocritical entity that demands Sharia as a way to delegitimize the long-established governments; a stand both Bahrain and UAE supported and was followed by withdrawal of their ambassadors from Qatar (Al-Jazeera, 2014).
A bigger division that further weakens Huntington’s notion of one Islamic civilization and outweighs the emerging division between sectors within Sunni Islam, is the Sunni-Shiite conflict that has been ongoing since the death of prophet Mohammed in the 7th century. To Arab policy makers, it is Iran, not the West or Israel, that compose the biggest threat to security. Rivalry with Israel, after the Naksa, did not exceed occasional boycott campaigns and local speeches by religious figures; not state officials. King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia coined the politically motivated concept of a “Shiite Crescent”, a rival discourse that generated ‘Shiaphobia’ in the Arab world for many reasons on top of which is the nationalist affiliation of Shias in the Arab world to Iran rather than their home countries (Ismael & Perry, 2013, p. 161). In this context, Islam is very effective in the cultural imagination where identity tends to take refuge “as long as it is grafted onto the pan-Arab ideal” (Roy, 2008, p.87). Examples of inter-civilizational conflicts in the Muslim world are numerous and in many cases had generated bigger threats than cross-civilizational differences, suggesting that by no means can Islam be regarded as representative of a singular cultural identity; this Muslim “world” envisioned to be at war with the West does not exist.
As for the rise of fundamentalism in Muslim societies that alarms Huntington, a closer look into the dynamics of the modernizing social structure in the Middle East would suggest that fundamentalism is a short-lived movement that lost support in a significantly less time than it took to gain it. In his analysis of the Muslim culture, Huntington detects a trend in the Muslim world of spreading faith through conversion and reproduction, and predicts that the number of Muslims would amount to 30 percent of the world’s population by 2025 (Huntington, 1996, p. 66). Now, this becomes problematic to the West in the Huntingtonian prophecy of world affairs because he associates the rising numbers of Muslim youth to the rise of fundamentalism for a number of reasons, most alarming of which is the failure of Muslim states to deliver economically which is especially the case in Egypt where “Islamic organizations had developed an extensive network of organizations which, filling a vacuum left by the government, provided health, welfare, educational and other services to a large number of Egypt’s poor” (Huntington, 1996, p. 112). These efforts by Islamist organizations have helped bring about the Islamic Resurgence amongst the youth, especially through the establishment of Islamic schools and targeting young intellectuals and university students. Modernization too, was an instrument utilized by fundamentalist movements because it provided means of direct communication, especially through Facebook and Twitter without censorship from the government as stated earlier. Popularity of Islamist movements had peaked in 2011 when they presented themselves –aside from being the guardians of faith- as capable of replacing current dictatorships and transforming the political structure into a democratic civil society.
However, as my following case study of post-Spring Egyptian politics reveals, political Islam’s place in hearts and minds is highly contingent on Islamist parties’ real world performance, not on religious irrationality (Masoud, 2014). Promises of wealth redistribution and state reform in compliance with Sharia law were behind the Brotherhood’s success in capturing power in Egypt especially that the alternative was Ahmed Shafiq; an upper class right-wing former prime minister. It is religiosity of the Brotherhood indeed that was a desirable factor to the Egyptian public. However, it was not due to the ‘Islamic Resurgence’ that worries Huntington, but because it is ‘common sense’, in the generic Muslim mentality, to trust Men of God to be men of their words. This is because in Islam, there are many texts conveying the meaning that betrayal of Muslims (and non-Muslims alike) is strictly forbidden and excruciatingly punishable in the afterlife. Therefore, needless to say, in a welfare state where twice as many people moved into poverty as moved out of it under the former dictatorship, it was easier to trust promises of economic reform from a party that affiliates itself with a glorified Islam than a political figure affiliated with the old neo-liberal regime, especially that efficiency of political Islam was yet to be put on trial and seemed promising. However, as the Brothers failed to deliver their reformist promises, public support was severely in decline. Other factors that account to the loss of support and consequently the ousting of president Morsi close to a year after his election include restoration of diplomatic ties with Iran and a newly formed constitutional declaration that grants the president far-reaching powers. Again, it was the political discourse, not religion that dictated Muslims’ attitude towards the Brotherhood despite that religion was a factor behind their electoral success. The same trend is present in the Gulf, where opposition most dominantly either comes from Islamists, as is the case in Kuwait and UAE or Shiites in both Bahrain and Saudi. Shiaphobia stirs public opinion in most parts of the Middle East in any political direction where the influence of Shias can be contained, which in the case of Gulf States, implies political loyalty to the established Sunni governments as opposed to the Brotherhood who demonstrated friendly attitudes towards Iran that discredited their doctrine and therefore somewhat alleviated domestic concerns regarding the rise in influence of the Brotherhood’s rival brand of Islam.
After illustrating how the notion of a singular Islamic civilization is false through an analysis of diversity within Islamic schools of thought, its role in segregating the ‘Ummah’ that never was and the political fragility of islamist movements that counterproductively aim to unify it, I shall now discuss the characteristics Huntington assumes to be true of Muslims, and which according to his theory, are the foundation of conflicts with the West. The rapid growth of Muslim populations is to Huntington, “a major contributing factor to the conflicts along the borders of the Islamic world between Muslims and other peoples” (Huntington, 1996, p. 119). The reason demographic expansion is problematic when it is Muslims who are expanding has less to do with the often-discussed consequences of overpopulation and more to do with the way Muslims are characterized as hostile and and less adaptable to modernization.
Huntington refers to the number of intergroup violent conflicts that Muslims have engaged in during the early 1990s in comparison to non-Muslims to arrive at his infamous conclusion that Islam borders are bloody. He further asserts it with reference to the number of conflicts involving Muslims in which violence was a dominant feature concluding that Muslim states have a higher propensity to resort to violence in international crises (Huntington, 1996, p. 258). These statistics, to Huntington, derive from the violent nature of Islam, and reflect the hostility of its adherents; in engineering the ‘clash’, he assumes that “Islam has from the start been a religion of the sword and […] it glorifies military virtues. […] Violent origin is stamped in the foundation of Islam” (Huntington, 1996, p. 263). The image of Jihad as an endorsed instrument against non-Muslims is “relished by those who claim fundamentally divergent positions between the Islamic legal order and the non-Muslim world” (Rehman, 2005, p. 57) and it forms the basis for the claimed clash between Islam and the ‘others’. However, this monolithic, essentialist view of Islam gives no justice to ordinary non-absolutist Muslims, who compose the vast majority of Muslims and underestimates the relevance of the defensive psychology of many Muslims in response to colonization. The attempt by some Western scholars like Huntington to explain what some Muslims do by reference to Islam as the legislator of their actions is as misleading in understanding dynamics of the culture as the attempt by these Muslims to justify their actions by reference to Islam, which was often denounced and challenged by the majority of Muslims (Halliday, 2003, p.114). First of all, the spread of Islam by sword (aggression in this sense) is not synonymous to Jihad, which literally translates into “struggle” and refers to the act of self-defense that every Muslim is obligated to when his life, property, and honor are at stake. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, efforts to expand Muslim territories by sword were not only absent, but also incompatible with the international system. These violent tendencies of Islam Huntington speaks of, are limited in scope of adherence to a minority that is although relatively more present in the current political scene in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, remains highly unrepresentative. Ordinary Muslims dare not speak against the absolutists in public for a number of reasons, amongst which is the lack of necessary confidence to take a critical attitude towards the absolutists for their ideas are expressed through a religious language that makes its less religiously literate opponent appear to be either a ‘liberal’ or an ‘infidel; both of which are equally stigmatized labels.
Another reason as to why ordinary Muslims are subordinated in the political scene in comparison to absolutists whom voices are not only loud, but followed by actions that are misconceived by Huntington and his proponents as being representative of Islam’s nature, is the prevalence of the victim mentality amongst many Muslims as consequence of colonization. For many hundred years prior to the consolidation of western colonial rule, Muslims and Christians have engaged in a “prolonged and fruitful mutual intellectual and artistic collaboration and influence” and both cultures were “feudal and pastoral, and despite local difference in religious doctrine […] there were shared intellectual premises that governed these differences” (Bilgrami, 2012, p. 478). What Huntington refers to, as a ‘clash’ between Western Christendom and Islam, in this context is best defined as ‘Western conquest’ and a resulting Muslim defensive cast of mind. I emphasize here that it is a mindset and not a practical approach, because the former results in no action in response to conquest but merely produces generic negative notions that are not exclusive to the Muslim world, but the majority of former colonies in the world. Where this becomes relevant to the temporary prevalence of fundamentalism over moderation in the political scene stems from the very definition of fundamentalism and its implications. It refers to “holding defensive attitudes toward one’s religious beliefs and is associated with strong boundaries between in-groups and out-groups” (Paloutzian & Kalayjian, 2009, p. 61). Colonization enforced negative notions towards Christianity in the Muslim mind that are although expressed in religious terms, its source remains nationalist. Alliance of Arab regimes to their former colonialists gives power to fundamentalists who exploit feelings of inferiority generated in the Muslim mind from colonization, to defy their governments and portray them as ‘sell-outs’ to the ‘infidel’ West. The now-godless West is not an enemy of the Muslim public who gradually shares more and more in common with the West due to globalization as I will discuss below, but until the conflict within the psychology of ordinary Muslims is resolved and the defensive mentality of victim status is overcome, the conflict between the fundamentalist minority and the moderate majority will not be addressed for the former will continue to use the victim card and the majority will continue to find themselves in a dilemma where the voices that dare speak their nationalist concerns, share little in common with them in terms of political methodology and aspirations. Therefore, contrary to Huntington’s statement about the nature of absolutism, and in assertion to what Muslim communities in some western countries find themselves forced to prove; absolutism is an extreme and not the mainstream.
The solution to this dilemma is democracy because “representative institutions should then be able to reveal that there absolutists are an unrepresentative group within Muslim populations” (Bilgrami, 2012, p.481) and it would allow voices of the majority to be expressed in their correct moderate context, without mediation from outspoken right-wing parties that exploit the public’s desperation to be heard for their political gains, which contradict political aspirations of the Muslim public. I use the term contradiction here because absolutism in both its revolutionary and reformist forms, fails to represent what politically matters to the public and that is modernity through democracy, not restoration of the early Islamic political system through Sharia law. Huntington stresses out that the failure of Muslim societies to achieve democracy results from “the inhospitable nature of Islamic culture and society to Western liberal concepts” and predicted the likelihood of Islamism to be “the functional substitute for the democratic opposition to authoritarianism in Christian societies” (Huntington, 1996, p. 114).
I argue here that opposition to western values of democracy is not inherent in Islam, but is rather a product of a long history of autocratic tribalism in the Arab culture. Theoretically, the Islamic Shura system is democratic if it were to be established according to the teachings of Islam. Historically, upon Mohammed’s death, Muslims collectively voted for Abu Baker to be the prophet’s successor the same way they voted on the following caliphates until a political dispute over the successor of the third caliphate that generated the ongoing conflict between Sunnis and Shias took place. Shura by definition literally translates into ‘democracy’ and shares many commonalities with the Western democratic system according to moderate Muslim clerics, including Imam Ghazali, who described democracy to be “the Shura there” (in Western countries) (Shavit, 2013, p. 86). Authoritarianism in the Middle East region is not very different from that of Africa in the sense that both are influenced by a complex set of factors, most dominant of which is the tribal culture and the lack of development. Tribes lost significance in many parts of the world, however, both in the Arab culture and some cultures in Africa, the tribe still plays a central role in society. Islam’s attempt to unify tribes into a singular Ummah since the early days of Mohammed did not result in eliminating tribalism that was present before Islam. In fact, the Egyptian scholar Mohammed Amara states: “since the earliest period of Islamic history, the state has tended to resort to tribalism as a means of balancing society’s conflicting forces” (Barakat, 1993, p. 39). However, in a globalized world where Muslims are increasingly interacting with other cultures, they have imported numerous elements from these cultures and integrated them into society, which had ultimately invoked protests throughout the Middle East against the political ‘norm’; a regional movement that was known as the Arab Spring. The religious as well as the secular; men as well as women in participating countries held slogans calling for same rights the West long promoted as ‘universal’. They didn’t call for an Islamist state; they called for democracy, civil rights, equality and liberty. These protests were extracted from the social context they were found within in terms of the nature of demands and aspirations. Modernity is not rejected in the Islamic world, nor does Islam oppose it. The rise of Islamists in some participating countries, which Huntington indeed anticipated, was as I stated earlier, conditioned to their real life performances that once deemed unsatisfactory, would result in their replacement because it is not their religiosity that is of prior interest to the public, but their reformist promises to which they made God a witness.
I have throughout my paper, demonstrated how politics of the Muslim world are dictated by political calculations rather than religious considerations despite the religious context in which many policies were promoted to the public. To further tackle Huntington’s theoretical misconstruction of the imaginary ‘civilizational fault-lines’, I will briefly refer to some historic interactions between the West and the Muslim world and their implications in discrediting his assumption that in the post Cold-war world, “states increasingly define their interests in civilizational terms” and “are more often in conflict with countries of different culture” (Huntington, 1996, p. 34). First of all, Islam, on practical grounds, only plays a part in the creation and diffusion of contemporary identities within multi-national states when linked to nationalism or communal identity (Halliday, 2003, p. 115). Just like other states, it is national interests that have significantly shaped the relations between Muslim states with the West, not religion. The often repeated phrase ‘Islam is both religion and state’ is but a myth. In many occasions, when the two have conflicted each other, state interests win over religious ideals. The same is true of Islamist movements that according to Halliday, are defined and determined in their political form by national states and rival political factions (Halliday, 2003, p. 119). Take Al-Qaeda for example, an extremist Islamist movement that did target the West militarily and continues to do so through proxy wars. For its political interests, Al-Qaeda did not mind taking refuge in a country that is an ally of the West, Pakistan (Olivier, 2005, p. 75). What is more, it has switched its primary target after the Syrian revolution and largely contributed to the opposition movement in Syria through its Nusra Front division. Islamist movements aside, I note here that the mere fact that current Muslim states define themselves as allies to the West directly contradicts a reoccurring Quranic rule that bans Muslims from allying with ‘disbelievers’: “Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers” (Quran: 3:28). However, history of international relations tells us that this never was the case for even Iran that had in the past describe the United States and other Western countries as the ‘Great Satan’ and long-sought leadership of the Muslim world through exportation of the Khomeini revolution has allied itself with atheist Russia and China instead of its Muslim neighbors, solely on the basis of shared political and economic interests. Moreover, all six Gulf States are historic allies to the West, with American militarily bases established in their soils. Bahrain for instance, is host to the United States’ Fifth Fleet that is responsible for naval forces and was named by the Bush administration as a major non-NATO ally. The Muslim conflict with Israel, too, can be understood in a nationalist context rather than a religious one given the territorial nature of the dispute, and reluctance of Muslim states to take firm actions against Israel to preserve their national security and interests with the West. If Huntington’s imaginary Muslim ‘world’ exists, the states shaping its map are most certainly not at war with the West.
The fading territorial borders between great civilizations, reinvented mental borders that gave a second life to the ghosts of lost civilizations, be it multiculturalism, minority groups or the alleged clash of civilizations (Olivier, 2003, p. 20). The study of a great civilization like Islam through its religious textbooks comes with various limitations that cannot be overlooked in the process of constructing generalizations about its people’s identity, through which Huntington theorized the mental borders he called civilizational fault lines. In my critique of Huntington, I do not deny Islam’s role in shaping cultures and politics of states endorsing it, I do however find the extent to which Huntington assumes Islam constitutes the cultural identity of Muslims and dictates the political discourse of Muslim states overemphasized. The cultural identity of Muslims is not homogenous nor is it fixed, even if that is true of the Quran that supposedly forms the basis of Muslims moral conduct. On the contrary, cultures tended to produce different forms of Islam that have historically triggered inter-civilizational conflicts that are of prior concern to those cultures than conflicts with the West. The political impacts of diversity within Islam therefore denounce Huntington’s claim that Islam constitutes a singular cultural and political entity. As modern history reveals, the frontier between Islam and the West is less civilizational and more political because the problems facing the two cultures are not inherent in their social structure nor do they constitute a foundation for this ‘clash’. Huntington undermines the role of colonization, national interests and absence of democracy in shaping contemporary Muslim societies in his claim that Islam and Western values are incompatible and that hostility towards the West has religion to blame. Despite religion as such being the language through which these problems are expressed, it does not play a central role in their formation because in many occasions when national interests conflicted with religion, it did not present an obstacle in preserving these interests. Last but not least, the long history of cooperation and alliance between the West and Muslim countries reinforces the prevalence of national interests and the quest for modernity over civilizational differences in shaping interactions between the West and Islam and more so does the nature of political demands expressed in the recent Arab Spring the demonstrate how increasingly similar to the West, the East is becoming.
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