Sunday, July 24, 2011

CLASH OF CIVILISATIONS-A challenge

It was in 1993 that Samuel P. Huntington published his seminal work “The Clash of Civilizations” as an article in the prestigious Foreign Affairs Magazine. Soon it was expanded into his seminal work a book titled the same. The basic underlying fact of the theory was that people’s religious and cultural identities will always be a source of conflict in the post cold war era.

In this particular case Huntington used the rise of Islamic terrorism as an example justifying his theory. He argues that the world was divided into major religious/cultural identities and these identities would be the source of conflict in the end. By the end of the 20th century as the world came face to face with a new source of terror called Al Qaeda academics began to look it through the prism of Huntington’s theory. They began to argue that the Muslim identity was the force which was at war with the West. Post 9/11 such clamor get stronger as the world invented a new term for itself called Islamic terrorism.

Yet however Huntington failed to notice the repetition of the same pattern that the world had gone over the years succeeding Industrial Revolution. In the post Industrial Revolution World or modern world as it is referred it somehow became necessary to exhibit a certain amount of control in terms of perhaps economy and political. This could be attributed to the fact that as empires began to fall apart and nation states began to 
emerge there was intense competition and clamor to be at top among the League of Nations

The world was no more covered by empires but dotted by numerous nations around the world. Each nation competed with each other in terms of finding out who had the greatest power. Usually it was economy which decided the ranking or standing order of the nation. Colonization was a manifestation of this desire itself as nations and empires began to understand the need of a standing in the global order.

Soon the world saw the First World War and the disposal of some of the greatest empires of Europe bearing the vestiges of a medieval era. Post First World War colonization too began to show a decline in different parts of the world. Direct economic and political control of nations was slowly beginning to weaken as the colonized countries became aware of their own rights in the global environment.

There was a need now for a new kind of weapon. A weapon which would not only sustain the needs of a nation but also act as a unifying force of its people which of course acted as the most vital link of any country its demographic force. A new weapon was required to wield the people together and it was invented -ideology. Germany and perhaps Adolf Hitler was the first man to understand the potential of ideology as a unifying force of making it a war of us against them. In this battle of ideology the goal was simple create an ideology, conjure an enemy and then set about to conquer that enemy. Hitler created an ideology called “pure blood” higher race and then set about finding its enemy the Jews, the Romas and the Poles. The world sat and watched as Hitler played his us versus them game to perfection. The world watched as Hitler relentlessly butchered millions of Jews in the name of striving for a pure blood. The western world the USA, Britain all watched as he made ways into Poland. It was only when Hitler loomed large as a territorial threat that the west began to look at concrete action. Of course that this was not without economic considerations can never be denied. But by then the harm was done a new force had been invented the force of ideology.

The Jew hating ideology took its toll on the world in the form of World War 2.And the West used this excuse to place Israel in the heart of Middle East as a balancer to the strategic interests in the oil rich region. For centuries the Muslims and Jews had coexisted in the Middle East but this forceful snatching away of the homeland of the Palestinians was a recipe for trouble..It was not that the world leaders did not recognize these dangers but they simple choose to ignore the resentment of the Palestinian people and the Muslims of the Middle East in general. However it must be remembered a few years hundred years ago that it was these very Christians which hated the Jews yet in the aftermath of the WW2 the Western World which could be read as the Christian world in some sense joined hands in building Israel a home for the Jews. And all this was for the convenience of ideology to fulfill the economic and political interests.

The world saw a relatively quite phase for some years now and thus there was the need for a new enemy a new shock and a new ideologue to sustain the economy to keep the global competition in place. Since the 1930’s Russia had developed its own ideas of economics which it called communism. It could loosely be defined as power to the people in short a government hand in the economics of the nation. This was in opposition to the Friedman brand of the economics the free hand of the market theory that the west chiefly USA and Britain professed. Soon the world saw the rise of two very distinct ideas of economics capitalism and communism. Both the ideas were diametrically opposite of each other and the world watched as USA and USSR the chief proponents of these economic instruments began to make rapid leaps and bounds.

The stage was set for a new tussle the tussle between communism and capitalism. The western world invented a new enemy for itself Communism. It moved from a mere idea to a sense of concrete definition of evil in the western world.USA was the chief architect of this anti communism movement which it felt would destabilize the world. Their campaign was not restricted to merely combating ideas but went to extent of toppling democratically elected communist/socialist regimes in their neighborhood in the quest for global peace. The Chile experiment was perhaps the first clear cut example of the battle between Capitalism and the new enemy-Communism. The democratically elected government of Chile was topped by a military dictator with the help from the American agencies. Soon the socialist schemes of the previous ministry were scrapped and free market was given a free hand. The Freidman displaces of Chicago school worked hard to turn Chile into a model capitalist experiment and it failed spectacularly. 

Yet this failure was ignored and the world tumbled into a new crisis of the Cold War era. The world was divided into the Capitalism and Communism block which reminded one of the Lenin quote “Either you are with us or without us.” A few nations like India tried to charter a different course but eventually these efforts were squabbled by the sword of ideological hegemony.

And this continued unabated for the next 30 years. Every policy that a nation made in terms of political, economic and social context was somewhere based on the concept of the “threat from them.”Matters reached such unthinkable proportions that Hollywood- the heart of movie making industry in USA was swamped by CIA agents who were out to find the Communist enemies. It was propagated worldwide that the Communists were terrorists who were out to destroy the global order.

The nature of this ideological battle is such that one always tries to find new allies in new regions in their battle against the common enemy. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan now provided the western world with a new opportunity that of acquiring new allies in the Muslim world with a common enemy Communism. It was a common fact that Pan –Islamism or the Islamic feeling of brotherhood was a remarkable feature of the Muslim community .The west choose to exploit this very facet and they began to shake hands with Islamic mujahedeen’s ,their goals were different but their enemy was one  Communism.

Western powers like USA, hosted organisation like Al Qaeda in their presidential mansions. Men from such organizations were often comparing the man in Al Qaeda to the founding fathers of USA itself. The Islamic mujahedeen’s were assured of every possible help in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world against their common enemy the Communists.

Meanwhile since the 1970’s Nasser a charistimatic leader of Egypt talked about a new African identity which was based on their African roots as well as their traditional ties. He advocated a stronger African voice a new world where Africa was heard .This ideologue was carried forward by his self appointed political protégé Muammar Gadaffi the young ruler of Libya. It was around the same time that Iran witnessed an Islamic revolution which was based on the rules of Shariat. T he Middle East was a traditional society which had a transforming identity pulled between the strands of modernism and traditional values.

The ruler of Iran tried to cover this distance on fast track which was not possible in a society that was still rooted in its traditional values. Thus Iran became ground zero for an Islamic revolution from which Ayatollah Khomeini emerged victorious. The moment he became the ruler Ayatollah too desired an enemy which he conjured in the form of USA to cement his own legitimacy as a ruler. What will always be interesting is however the fact that it was only after the USA had pulled the rug from below the feet of the Iranian Shah that Ayatollah Khomeini has declared himself the ruler of Iran.

These events were coupled with the Palestinian freedom struggle which was a legitimate ground for the Palestinian people. The West watched for years as these events took place and choose to ignore these even though these events occasionally affected their own citizens directly. Instead the west took active involvement in supplying arms to the Afghan Mujahedeen.

And then, the Soviet Union collapsed. Communism died from the minds of popular memory. The world frantically began searching for a new enemy a new ideologue to combat a new concept of us versus them. And once again the world turned to popular history and current developments to conjure a new enemy. This time it was branded Islamic terrorism. Every major strand of Islamic call from the Iranian ruler’s legitimacy tactic to the Libyan ruler’s call for acceptance and subsequent anger at being rejected by world leaders, from the Palestinian freedom struggle to the tribal sentiments of the Pashtun tribals were coloured under one big colorful umbrella called Islamic terrorism. And it was all branded underneath one big brand called Al Qaeda.

There were different cause’s different strands of each of these occurring. Yet the west chooses to ignore these and branded them all under Islamic Terrorism and Al Qaeda. The nitty –grittes like until a few years ago the West was hobnobbing with this very AlQaeda was pushed under the rug. A new type of realpolitik took over under the grab of Islamic terrorism called racial profiling (a gruesome reminder of the 1940’s all over again.).Worldwide Muslims began to develop a sense of alienation as they came under repeated attack and scan .A stage was reached when every Muslim in the world was looked upon with suspicion.Perhaps September 11 and other tragic acts could have been skirted had both sides shown restraint. Both sides could have showed the maturity of not trying to conjure an enemy and instead talk about those issues which affected humanity the trust deficit that existed in the world.

Perhaps things would have been different if the West had a better understanding of the Muslim world. Perhaps things would have been different if Al Qaeda was not made a partner in the war against Communism in the first place. These are things we will never know and yet to justify such faults, theories like clash of civilization were conjured up to hide one basic fact that it was all a battle of ideology to control economy and control the human life. Oil in the Middle East would always be the foremost factor.

It has been nearly 10 years since the war on Islamic terrorism began .A whole generation of people grew up learning the fact that Islam perhaps was the enemy just as 30 years ago people grew up learning Communists were the enemy. The war on Islamic terror is finally about to end. Osama Bin Laden the poster boy of Islamic terror much like the Gorbachev of Communism died a quite death. The USA is about to cut a deal with Taliban in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is perhaps in its lowest ebb. Guantanamo Bay is about to close down. New waves of popular secular uprising are sweeping Middle East. Finally the world seems to be going back to peace. And the question on the minds of the people is who is the next enemy the global enemy against which our citizens must be protected against ,which new alliances must be forged new deals must be cut?

Perhaps the blasts in Oslo in Norway seem to be an answer to that riddle. As Anders Behring Breivik was taken away by the police the world began clamoring for his identity. And then it emerged that he was FAR RIGHT -the neo Nazis those who hated the Muslims and the secular liberal cultural of immigrant welcoming Europe in General. It took the world by shock another ideologue? Will this be another opportunity for the world to launch into another senseless ideological battle against a nonexistent enemy or will the world finally come to its senses