How true is the claim by some Western scholars that Islam is on a collision course with the West and is inherently inimical to the modern age we live in?

With this renewed understanding of Islam and its socio-political culture, one can begin to look at the common humanity that connects all civilizations and find ways to strengthen it. This is because the universality in humanity is so much stronger than artificial constructs like West, Islam, the Orient, etc.  In this critical period in Islam’s history, political leaders from both East and West can adopt a broad policy framework that has ‘tolerance’ at its core.  In this context, James Dobbins’ observation in Foreign Affairs journal makes a lot of sense:

“The beginning of wisdom is to recognize that the ongoing war in Iraq is not one that the United States can win. As a result of its initial miscalculations, misdirected planning, and inadequate preparation, Washington has lost the Iraqi people’s confidence and consent, and it is unlikely to win them back. Every day that Americans shell Iraqi cities they lose further ground on the central front of Iraqi opinion” (Dobbins, Jan 2005).

While some western scholars have played up differences between civilizations, they seem to underplay major areas of agreement between them.  As Wendell Bell correctly points out, human beings are still one single species.  And what is universally common to people of all civilizations are things such as love, compassion, a sense of justice, the inclination toward spirituality, etc.  And by focusing on what is common to us all would greatly help resolving brewing or persisting conflicts in the political realm.  Wendell Bell seems to suggest that the prevalent thesis espoused by western scholars is deficient in its treatment of human universalities.  The best manifestation of common human values is seen in the globalization process of today, where indigenous cultures confront, reconcile or assimilate the dominant Western civilization (represented by such corporate symbols as the McDonald and WalMart).  The result of this process is the emergence of a truly global culture, which highlights the best and universal in human beings while also providing a space for history and tradition to find expression.  If peace and harmony are to be lasting features of our world, then solutions are to be found in Wendell Bell’s view of civilizations as opposed to Huntington’s.


Edward Said, The Clash of Ignorance, retrieved from <> on 12th May, 2009

Wendell Bell, Humanity’s Common Values: Seeking a Positive Future, Originally published in the September-October 2004 issue of THE FUTURIST.

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations?, Chapter 5, The State, p.203-209. Originally from Foreign Affairs, 72, no.3 (summer 1993): 22-49.

Dobbins, James, Iraq: Winning the Unwinnable War, Foreign Affairs, January, 2005.

Quoc-Benjamin, Nguyen Tang Le Huy. Women, Democracy and Islam. UN Chronicle, Dec2004-Feb2005, Vol. 41 Issue 1, p38-39.

Sirriyeh, Elizabeth. The Rights of Women in Islam. Journal of Beliefs & Values: Studies in Religion & Education, Oct99, Vol. 20 Issue 2, p261.

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