(ISLAM AND MODERN AGE)
When Prof. Huntington wrote his book on clash of civilizations it got rave review in the Western press and he was held as great thinker of post-cold war period after collapse of Soviet Union. In fact a careful study of the book shows that Prof. Huntington’s approach was quite superficial and not worth the scholarship of Harvard University professor. It is interesting to note that though Prof. Huntington’s book was greatly hailed it was dumped in no time and he died an unknown death. His death was hardly taken notice of in the press.
Why a professor hailed as messiah of post-cold war period was dumped on garbage heap of history so soon? It is because he was not hailed on the merit of his book but because of political need the US and other western rulers felt for his formulations. Some even suggest that the book was written on order from White House. It may or may not be true but it had a very short life. It was dumped as soon as it served its political need.
What was that political need? Why it got such rave reviews and why was it so enthusiastically hailed and dumped thereafter so soon? Nations which are not morally great but try to draw their greatness by arming themselves to the teeth are never really secure and they always need an enemy to engage with to sustain the moral of their people. It is a fact that USA which once stood on moral values of freedom, equality, human dignity and human rights, changed drastically in post-World War II when it emerged as the only power in the Western World and began to project itself as a super-power and guardian of ‘freedom’ and of the ‘free-world’.
It did so not by strength of its moral values but by acquiring nuclear bombs and killing nearly two hundred thousand people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. The droppings of nuclear bombs were not because it was needed but because USA wanted to show its power in the post-colonial world and emerge as the greatest power in the ‘free world’. For that it needed an enemy and it got in the form of Soviet Union. Communism thus became great ‘enemy’ of the free-world’
However, when that enemy disappeared after collapse of Soviet Union it needed another enemy and Prof. Huntington discovered it for USA in the form of Islam and Islamic world. It was easier to make Islam replace with communism as an enemy for various reasons. One of the reasons was that there were as strong prejudices among the western people against Islam as against communism. Most of these prejudices were created by the media, especially the electronic media. The media itself was controlled by those very vested interests who were in need of such an enemy.
Another important factor which promoted such animosity with Islam was the Zionist lobby in USA in the post-cold war period. This lobby played, and continues to play very vital role in this respect. A large part of media is controlled by this powerful lobby. Thus by writing the book clash of civilizations Prof. Huntington whose the way. But then why it became irrelevant so soon after its publication? It served its need and events of 9/11 provided the proof, if any proof was needed.
Was 9/11 inevitable and was it because of Huntington’s theory of clash of civilizations? No one asked these questions in the heat of the moment and most of western social scientists took it for granted the causes behind 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam and Islamic civilization. It was, above all a political clash and neither it was because of western civilization or hatred of west on the part of Muslims.
President Bush, either because of lack of understanding or because of vested interests (more because of later reason) projected events of 9/11 as clash of civilizations and even went to the extent of saying why they (meaning Muslims) hate us and our freedom. He also hinted that Islam is against democracy and freedom whereas the fact is that it is USA which has been supporting dictators in Islamic world (earlier in Latin America) in its own interests as the recent developments in the Middle East has convincingly shown. The uprisings of Arab peoples have thrown away the dictators foisted upon them by the US to control Arab oil.
The western media propagated that it was all because of Islam and what is ironical is that their best friend in the Arab world Saudi Arabia was most dictatorial and most orthodox and practiced most conservative Islam. US conveniently closed its eyes towards these harsh realities. Another irony was that while it criticized Islam and its teachings, its political interests compelled it to praise the rulers of these Islamic countries and support them to the hilt. Criticism of Islam was also politically needed as supporting the Islamic rulers of these countries. It has been living through such stark contradictions.
The fact is that Islam is not responsible for lack of freedom and democracy it is political requirement of Muslim rulers and US foreign policies. Islam is as supportive of democracy and freedom as any religion or democratic system could be. The ultra-conservative Ulama issuing fatwas against democracy and freedom are product of very conservative political environment created by political need of the rulers. Islam, if one goes by the Qur’anic spirit, upholds human equality, and dignity and opposes every form of discrimination between human beings.
Qur’an upholds plurality of religions, races and cultures as creation of Allah and requires Muslims to respect all religions and all prophets as they all have been sent by Allah. How such a religion could be anti-democratic and anti-freedom? It is for these propagandists to explain. Thus it would be seen that clash of western and Islamic civilizations is a political myth created by powerful vested interests.
Unfortunately the media plays very negative role as it is basically handmaiden of capitalists and political interests who benefit by promoting clash between countries and nations in the third world. Until Second World War all wars were fought between western nations themselves but in post-Second World War period they cleverly shifted theatre of war to Afro-Asian countries and the rulers of these countries willingly or unwillingly play into the hands of rulers of western countries.
All wars after Second World War have been fought in either Asia or Africa. Europe has enjoyed its fruits by selling more and more arms to these third world countries. In America it is well known that its economy is dependent on military-industrial complex. After nine eleven also America declared war first on Afghanistan and then on Iraq, For both these wars it used false excuses.
Mulla Umar of Afghanistani Taliban had offered to hand over Osama bin Laden if only America could provide proof of Osama’s involvement in bombing of trade towers in New York. Instead America declared war on Afghanistan and toppled Mulla Umar’s regime without finding Osama. It was only killed later in Pakistan instead of capturing him alive and trying him for his grave offence. Why this unwillingness to try Osama is an important question.
In Iraq President Bush said there are ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and there is grave threat to security of America and hence it was necessary to invade Iraq and destroy those weapons. After killing thousands of innocent people they could not find even a needle, let alone weapons of mass destruction. All they succeeded was in toppling Saddam’s regime and ultimately hang him which was the real purpose as Saddam had defied American might and refused to bow down before it. Also Iraq had greatest reserve of oil after Saudi and Kuwait oil reserves. How could it dare defy US the mightiest power in the world after collapse of Soviet Union.
And what is iron is that though America was waging destructive wars and American media, at its instance was declaring Islam as jihadi religion and waging jihad against ‘infidels’. It is also important to note that not a single Islamic Government had supported Osama in his attack on World Trade Towers in New York; they all had condemned it unambiguously including Iran.
Even Saddam never supported Osama and his al-Qaeda as Saddam was Baathist and Osama hates all socialists and considers them as enemy of Islam. Also Saddam was never a fundamentalist as America understands the term and this was all known to America and yet America invaded Iraq because its motives were very different. It wanted complete control over Iraq. In fact it was due to American invasion of Iraq that al-Qaeda became stronger in Iraq and bomb explosions by al-Qaeda are taking place almost every day and thousands are dying long after the war.
Now after all this war waging America is preparing to go to war with Iran. Iran has been saying again and again that it does not intend to manufacture nuclear weapons and its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes and yet America is not ready to believe. Even International Atomic Energy Commission has said that it has no conclusive evidence of Iran having potential to manufacture nuclear weapons and yet America is talking of going to war with Iran.
It is more under pressure from Israel than its conviction that Iran has weapon grade uranium. It would be Israel’s proxy war against Iran. America is not prepared to ignore Israel’s interests when it comes to its Middle East policy. Because of these wars American economy is facing severe problems and yet it is not ready to abandon its aggressive policies.
If such pressures and interests are not there then only dialogue of civilizations is possible. In fact no two civilizations can clash, it is vested interests which clash as no two religions which clash but it’s the interests of its followers which clash. However to legitimize our interests we invoke civilization or religion and then make it appear that civilizations or religions are clashing. That is precisely what Prof. Huntington did.
West, particularly, USA was looking for an enemy after collapse of Soviet Union and it found one in Islamic region, and Huntington provided the much sought after explanation. In fact civilizations, by its very nature cannot clash but of course they can differ. However, differences cannot mean hostility or clash. Civilization comes into existence on the basis of certain values and refinement. Civilization makes us civilized and sets norms of behaviour. These behavioural norms lead to co-existence, tolerance and respect for the other.
How can then civilizations clash. If they clash they cannot qualify to be civilization at all. The western countries have accepted democracy and even multi-culturalism of late. And multi-culturalism demands acceptance of other cultures and civilizations. After the 2nd World War lot of people from former colonies migrated to their former colonising nations and hence today west has millions of people from former colonies and that is why it accepted multi-culturalism as these people from former colonies had different cultural backgrounds. Thus if they accepted multi-culturalism as state policy where is the question of clash of civilizations?
And knowing this well the theory of clash of civilizations was enthusiastically endorsed by western powers. Thus there is gross contradiction in theory and practice. But fact is that this theory of clash of civilizations was accepted for reasons other than its soundness. Its acceptance provided legitimacy to war policy of USA and to serve its own interests. After collapse of communism there was no enemy left against whom NATO powers could be united and also at home people could be rallied behind government policies. Wars were needed for many reasons and specially forgo reasons: to control Middle East oil and to run wheels of military industrial complex.
Also America needed wars here and there to maintain its super power image and to impose its policies on other countries. This became inevitable to maintain its high standards of consumption at the cost of other countries. America is also a leader of the western block of countries whose consumption standards are very high compared to non-western countries – except Japan, of course. Western block needs super power status of America to procure raw materials for its industries to maintain such high standards of living. They, therefore, need super power like America.
And it is western block under the leadership of America which has technology to manufacture most sophisticated arms and these arms are needed for two reasons i.e. to keep Asian and African countries under their hegemony and to make them fight among themselves by selling arms to them so that they may rule. Also by selling arms they strengthen their economies and make super profits.
DIALOGUE BETWEEN CIVILIZATIONS
How can then one promote dialogue between civilizations which are desperately needed by the modern world. Today it is desperate need to promote peace in the world. Our world, thanks to science and technology and globalization, is becoming what has come to be termed as global village. The attack on New York towers proves this, if any proof is needed. The terror attacks have become quite frequent in 21st century.
The attacks on New York towers would not have become possible if modern technology and sophisticated weapons were not available with these terrorists. There is fear that they may even walk away with nuclear weapons from some or the other country. If it so happens world will face danger of nuclear war which can be ultimate disaster for the world. America alone has so many nuclear weapons that it can destroy this earth many times over.
Also due to over consumption our environment itself is in great danger. Every war and use of sophisticated weapons (often nuclear tipped `missiles) causes irreparable damage to our environment. Every war, besides cost in terms of human lives, damages our environment. In Iraq the ban regime and subsequent war cost more than a million human lives and it hardly achieved anything as it was based on totally false premise.
Peace is the only alternative. When such dangerous and disastrous weapons are around no one, not even possessors of such arms can feel secure. Today America is as insecure as any other country. Real security comes, as pointed out above, not from weapons but from moral values. America will never remain safe whatever steps it takes against terrorism. It will be safe only if it respects its own constitutional values of freedom for all, promoting democracy and democratic values and reduces its consumption through certain drastic measures.
It is easier said than done. Unfortunately in competition with Russia it went on increasing its consumption levels to prove superiority of capitalism over communism and also increased its superiority in weaponry to defeat Soviet Union and now after collapse of Soviet Union it is trying desperately to follow its old policies by waging wars against Muslim countries.
It must review its policies and improve its moral standards and assure all other nations that it means to promote peace, democracy and democratic values in a genuine manner. For this it will also have to resist pressures from military-industrial complex as well as from Zionists of Israel and put it under notice to behave and coexist peacefully with its neighbours and stop colonizing Palestine. Solving Palestinian problem will help tremendously to promote peace. It is most troubled question today.
These are very complex issues and would require great political courage to resolve them but there is no alternative if we want a peaceful world. Once vested interests are contained, even partly, if not fully, inter-civilizational dialogue will be much more meaningful. Such a dialogue will strengthen peace process further. Ideological attacks do not help. Different civilizations have different cultural norms and they persist for a long time. Traditions cannot be abolished in one go.
This complex process has to be studied diligently and its stages of change and growth must be grasped properly. Then only different norms of behaviour could be understood. Generally the approach of media is far from scholarly. It tries to judge the other from its own civilizational perspective and publishes judgemental stories. This creates strong prejudices about other civilizational norms in the minds of watchers and readers.
Also media picks up negative stories which sensationalizes the readers (or watchers of electronic media as the case may be) ignoring the multi-layered approach of people in the other civilization. In no culture or civilization there is single opinion about anything. Take Islam and democracy, for example. In all Muslim countries there is majority opinion in favour of democracy and yet there have been dictatorships in several Muslim countries either foisted by USA or otherwise. But media often concluded that it is Islam which is coming in the way of democracy.
Similarly there have been dictatorships in Latin America but it was not ascribed to religion because religion in Latin America is Catholic Christianity. Same is true of terrorism. If a Muslim group carries out terrorist attack it would be immediately ascribed to Islam but if any such attack is carried out in Spain or Ireland it would not be on account of religion as religion there is Christianity.
Such a prejudicial and partial approach by media has created worldwide opinion that Islam is a violent and jihadi religion. No one cares to study several other trends in Islam which are totally peaceful and highly critical of violent trends. Sufi Islam, for example, has never been given prominence. It thus becomes clear that a particular religion is targeted.
This is, in some cases is out of genuine misunderstanding also and to that extent dialogue can help. Thus some scholars and peace activists should devote themselves to carry out inter-civilizational dialogue which will promote proper understanding and appreciation for differences. This dialogue should take place at different levels, at the levels of intellectuals, activists, media persons and also at the level of states through UNO. Such a dialogue will greatly help in reducing inter-civilizational tensions and would promote appreciation of the ‘other’ and other’s civilizational compulsions.