Monday, October 15, 2012

Current Muslim rage: A confirmation of Huntington’s Clash of civilizations?

In 1992 political scientist Samuel P. Hungtington expressed for the first time his theory of world conflict which he referred to as “The clash of Civilizations”. With this phrase he developed his thinking on the post Cold War world scenario where he found that religious and cultural identity would be the primary source of world conflict.
Following the news about the so called “Muslim rage”  or “anti-US demonstrations” there are several interrogatives that have aroused in public discussion such as: Does every religion have the power to cause harm? How can the western world interpret these demonstrations?  Due to the importance this subject has gained in the world media, it seemed almost impossible not write about it.

My first statement is that faith by itself does not pursue the use of violence but it is the misinterpretation of faith what leads to fundamentalism.

My second statement is that the current  “muslim rage” (although I strongly disagree with this title and I shall explain why) has little to do with the famous video that portraited prophet Muhammed as a pedophile and has more to do with the fail of the US government in handling their complicated entanglements in the Middle East since 9/11.

My third statement seeks to reach out for a common ground, the value of life. Both muslim families in Libya, Egypt and other countries and American consular families, on the other hand, are hurt every day by these deadly violent acts. There is a lack of understanding that gets in the way of mutual respect between the East and the West. Just as freedom of speech is so precious to westerns, respect to religion and traditions is most treasured in the East.

Regarding my first statement there is a great quote by one of my favorite current philosophers that explains this point very well:

Religious violence is a very slippery topic; it tends to be even more problematic than religion itself. Religion is a mixed blessing; it can promote a sense of community and provide valid service to its members. But one should not be blind to its vices and harmful effects. Historically, religious ideas have been used to justify both war and peace, both violence and reconciliation. We can observe it in Islam, in Christianity, in Hinduism, in Judaism, in practically all religions.
What remains open to question is whether religion makes anybody good or non-violent who would otherwise be malicious and violent. This is the big question. And this reminds me of what Mary McCarthy used to say, “Religion is only good for good people.” When cloaked in religion people can display great tolerance and generosity, but sometimes it reduces them to the lowest forms of cruelty.
 In other words, faith in itself does not pursue violence for true religion seeks the welfare of human kind, but rather, it is the political and socio-economic environment that we’re surrounded by the one that may lead to a certain political action where religion is used as an instrument or shield I dare I say.
Regarding my second statement there are two key points I’d like to develop. The first one suggests that the name “Muslim rage” gives a misrepresentation of the facts. If by Muslim we refer to a radical minority of the world Muslim population then the term is correct, but as many of you may already know, these violent demonstrations have been performed by a minority whose goal I suspect is higher than banning the Muhammed Film. Does that mean that mean the film was a good idea? Certainly not, in fact I consider it a provocation by people who lacked the ethics of responsibility, which in the words of Weber means the capacity of considering the outcomes before an action and being thoughtful towards the majority of people. The other question within this second statement leads to the political arena in the Middle East. In reference to this there is an interesting article by Jeffrey Goldberg I read a few days ago that illustrates my assumption:

Motivation for rioting differed from country to country, but there are common threads. Many of the riots took place in countries with poor economies and venal, incompetent governments with mythomaniacal worldviews. (Recall that the president of Egypt is a Sept. 11 Truther.) More to the point, much of the rioting could be attributed to the exploitation of religious sentiment by radicals affiliated with Salafism, the extreme, puritanical, anti-Western and anti-Semitic strain of political Islam from which al-Qaeda draws much of its ideology. Salafists are competing with secularists and more moderate Islamists for power (only Salafists could make the Muslim Brotherhood appear moderate), and so they look for any opportunity to highlight their anti- American bona fides.
This video, like the Danish cartoons mocking Muhammad that set off protests in 2005, was merely an excuse.
So why won't the administration acknowledge this fact? Because that would mean acknowledging that the killing of Osama bin Laden and the withdrawal of troops from Iraq didn't bring to an end the unhappy U.S. entanglements in the Middle East. It would mean acknowledging that Obama hasn't charmed radical Islam into submission, and that American counterterrorism policies, especially drone strikes, sometimes cause as many problems as they solve.

Therefore, the so called “Muslim rage” title (a title given by the famous Newspaper Newsweek) is an incitement to rage by itself. It completely disheartens me that the whole Muslim community has to suffer this kind of label provided by a somewhat sensational western journalism, when in reality the majority of them have just dealt with it peacefully, even though hurt by a video that mocks their religion.
And thus we get to my third proposition, one that seeks common ground between Muslims and the western world. Just as tradition and religion are of high value for Muslims, freedom of speech is just as important for westerns, even though sometimes that freedom of speech can be used to harm others.
Something the Muslim community should take in consideration is that Christians in the western world suffer this kind of mocking all the time, in fact, they have had to deal with the satire of the Christian faith by Hollywood and the media for decades. There’s an article by Parvaez Ahmed and Mark Schlakman that fairly expresses my main point here:

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects both freedom of speech and free exercise of religion. In other words, a Muslim's right to freely practice his or her religion in America is derived from the same constitutional clause that protects the right of others to express their anti-Islam views.
In an increasingly interdependent world where diverse populations are linked by social media and 24-hour news cycles, the extent to which defaming religion may be analogous to shouting fire in a crowded theater is a debate worth having. But any such debate is less likely against the backdrop of extremists displaying not only a lack of respect for other cultures but also ignorance about the pluralistic and free-speech traditions within Islam.

Jahanbegloo, Ramin. Is a Ghandi muslim possible?
Parvez Ahmed and Mark Schlakman. Value of Free Speech lost in Muslim "rage"