“It is my hypothesis that the fundamentals source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source conflict will be cultural.” (Huntington 22) This bold statement made by Samuel Huntington is a view that is shared by other scholars such as Bernard Lewis. According to these scholars, the Clash of Civilizations theory suggests that there are cultures that are modern, and others that are pre-modern. Conflict and violence are caused by a lack of modernity in certain cultures, and these cultures need to be restrained by the modern cultures for the good of overall civilization (Huntington). This theory very distinctly ‘others’ many people, specifically Muslims. According to Huntington, the West and Islam are ideologies that will clash, because they are so different. While the West is modern, democratic, and free, Islam is not, giving the West an edge and sense of power over Islam (Huntington 31-33).
However, there are others that are not so quick to accept this ideology. Avaaz.org, an international organization dedicated to the mission of organizing citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world that exists and the world most people everywhere want, is a strong advocate against the clash of civilizations. Their YouTube video ‘Stop the Clash of Civilizations’, calls people to stop ‘othering’ not only Muslims, but also Americans. The video shows a series of images of American stereotypes, including shallow, fat, hypocritical, monsters, and sex mad. Then appear a series of Muslim stereotypes, such as zealot, violent, tyrannical, repressed, self destructive, and blood thirsty. The video constantly asks, “Is this how you see me?” After seeing negative images of how both groups can be viewed, Avaaz challenges the idea that there are so many differences. The next images include Muslim and American pictures, side by side, of parents holding their children, kids playing soccer, the universal love that parents have for their children, and also universal suffering that people go through due to the war. Aavaz argues that we are not so different after all, but governments are playing off of our fears, and making this ‘clash of civilizations’ a reality. The video challenges people to not let others, especially governments have power over people and speak for them. Aavaz argues that majorities from many countries, whether it be the United States or Middle Eastern countries truly want peace talks. However, in order to change the world, it is vital that these different cultures work together and realize their similarities, instead of overly exaggerating their differences. A new and changed world cannot take place while people still believe that a clash of civilizations exists.
Unfortunately, it seems clear that at least some version of a clash of civilizations does indeed exist; otherwise there would be no need for a video such as this. However, separating cultures into ‘modern’ and ‘premodern’ is not the way to encourage change, peace, and democracy. By ‘othering’ different cultures, it only reinforces the extent that they are different from the US, or American culture, highlights the power that the US and western governments have in the world, and that truly making a difference is near impossible. A change can only come about if these differences are set aside, common goals are set and put in place, and there is a realization that diversity within the global civilization does not weaken us as a human race, it only strengthens.
By Falina Lothamer
Course Terms List, AC 498/CICS 401. Dec 3 2010.
Huntington, Samuel P., “the Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs (Vol. 72, No. 3, Summer 1993), 22-41 and 48-49.
“Stop the Clash of Civilizations.” Youtube.com. 22 November 2010. (Youtube)