The relationship between Islamic and Western worlds should and could be better. At present, it often seems to be marked by fear and mistrust. A section of the Western media likes to portray it as a clash of civilisations.
The unease in relations, it seems, has primarily to do with the issue of violence. Violence that permeates the past and the present.
When one examines the West’s fear of Islam and tries to relate it to the reasons usually given, including fundamentalism, militancy, radicalism and totalitarianism, it doesn’t stand to reason.
But there seems to be an ongoing “clash of symbols” between Islam and the West. Westerners are finding headscarves and other symbols of Islamic expression strange, as fundamentalist Muslims have seen in blue jeans and other manifestations of Western culture explicit anti-Islamic sentiments. Belief systems are being simplified into images to be either rejected or absorbed in their entirety.
With the end of the Cold War two decades ago, some strategists have been urging the West to prepare for a new long struggle against “radical” Islam. But Islam is neither a threat to the United States and the West nor is it a united political phenomenon.
Muslim countries like Iran have pursued foreign policies dominated by geo-politics and not religion. But in parts of the Muslim world, Islam has become the language of political opposition to a thoroughly corrupt status quo.
By blindly supporting autocratic regimes against these popular movements, the West has been turning the threat of Islamic fundamentalism into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A post 9-11 world and the ensuing “war on terror” have provided the “new world order” warlords a new opportunity, suffering from enemy deprivation syndrome since the demise of the Cold War, to settle on a new potential bogeyman. It seems to be Islam or the green peril. And the new battlefield looks to be the Middle East.
With its 350mn people, located at the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa and renowned for its historical legacy as the cradle of civilisation as well as its huge energy resources, would be expected to be on par with other leading economies. Its GDP is more than $900bn a year. Its average economic growth rate is about 5% a year.
When talking about threats to America it is hard not to think about the image of two planes slamming into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the subsequent war on terror going on for the better half on the last 10 years. This war has been fought exclusively in the Middle East, giving credence to the so-called “clash of civilisations” theory.
With the Soviet Union gone, the West has found a new bogeyman. It seems to be the Islamic World.
It was Patrick J Buchanan who presciently said in 1990: “To some Americans, searching for a new enemy against whom to test our mettle and power, after the death of communism, Islam is the preferred antagonist. But, to declare Islam an enemy of the Untied States is to declare a second Cold War that is unlikely to end in the same resounding victory as the first.”
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