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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Clash of Civilizations?

Oh these words! They are controversial. Samuel Huntington was scorned for coining them 15 years ago. Everyone wants to avoid them. Even those who believe in the clash of civilizations don't admit it and run around the bush instead

Well, here you go. Hear it from an Egyptian. I believe in the clash of civilizations. I firmly believe we are currently living through it. Let me explain.

The notion of a clash between civilizations is rarely discussed because people don't want to appear as if they are discussing a state of enmity between Islam as a religion and the Western civilization, or to be more specific, the Christian world. Nobody wants to discuss that. Nobody wants to imply that Western or Christian values are superior to Islam.

I look at the issue a little bit differently. I don't regard it as a clash between the West or the East, or Islam and the West, or Islam and Christianity. Instead, I believe that there is an undeniable clash between practiced Islam and the values of liberal democracy, the values that are not just adopted in the "Christian west", but also in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and to some extent India. So do I think there is a clash between the currently practiced Islam and the values that Brits, Americans, Koreans, and Japanese hold? The answer is a definite yes. Islam, as it is practiced today, is not compatible with freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to change religions, gender equality, minorities' rights, and the crucial thing which is called separation of religion and politics.

So, are we doomed for good? Yes we're doomed until the day Islam experiences what Christianity had experienced in the past, which is reformation. Ohhhhhh, this magical word. It's like music to my ears and cheese cake to my lips! Only religious reformation will prevent a perceived clash between the values of liberal democracy and religion. It happened before in Europe, the church dogma that was the major stumbling block in the way of modernity, enlightment, and even democracy reformed itself and stopped being so. The same should happen to us. There is simply no other way.

Now, the question some might ask is: for how long shall we wait for this reformation? I am afraid we shall wait for so long. There are 2 main reasons why we most probably won't be alive when Islam enters the same furnace Christianity and Judaism entered.

First, Muslims are busy preoccupying themselves with the West! They think westerners have abandoned their daily lives and businesses and are busy making plots against Islam. Germans stopped making cars, Danes stopped milking their cows, and the French abandoned their wineries (Americans of course stopped watching the Super Bowl), all in the attempt to come together and find ways to destroy Islam whether through silly cartoons or movies made by a Dutch Somali member of parliament. You can't look in the mirror when you're busy looking at someone else!

Second, the Islamic discourse today is mainly controlled by those who don't see the dire need to reform. In fact, many of them believe that Islam can't be reformed, nothing is wrong with it to be reformed. They simply don't understand the fact that reformation does not mean to change the basic tenets of the faith, but it means to reform the laws that might have been applicable thousands of years ago yet they're not anymore today.

I have hope though. What worked for the Europeans will work for us. It might take generations, yet it is bound to happen. In the mean time, the clash of civilizations continues.

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