Islam and the Clash of Civilizations
04 Mar, 2009
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, and 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.
One likes 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 the 7th-century Arabia at the cost of his non-Muslim neighbors: Pagans, Jews and Christians. The Prophet himself had cleansed Arabia of the Pagans. On his deathbed (632), he had ordered his followers to cleanse Arabia of 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 the 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 the great pre-Islamic civilization 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. 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 long.
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.
One agrees 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 world and institute the governance of the Quran and prophetic tradition—the ultimate ambition, it was born to accomplish.
MA Khan is the editor of islam-watch.org and the author of Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery.