Clash of Civilizations
This, of course, is my answer to this popular thesis by Samuel P Huntington and others that there is a so-called clash of civilisations. I don't buy this thesis, for a number of reasons. Today's racism is precisely this racism of cultural difference. It no longer says: 'I am more than you.' It says: 'I want my culture, you can have yours.' Today, every right-winger says just that. These people can be very postmodern. They acknowledge that there is no natural tradition, that every culture is artificially constructed. In France, for example, you have a neo-fascist right that refers to the deconstructionists, saying: 'Yes, the lesson of deconstructionism against universalism is that there are only particular identities. So, if blacks can have their culture, why should we not have ours?' We should also consider the first reaction of the American 'moral majority', specifically Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to the 11 September attacks. Pat Robertson is a bit eccentric, but Jerry Falwell is a mainstream figure, who endorsed Reagan and is part of the mainstream, not an eccentric freak. Now, their reaction was the same as the Arabs', though he did retract a couple of days later. Falwell said the World Trade Centre bombings were a sign that God no longer protects the USA, because the USA had chosen a path of evil, homosexuality and promiscuity. According to the FBI, there are now at least two million so-called radical right-wingers in the USA. Some are quite violent, killing abortion doctors, not to mention the Oklahoma City bombing. To me, this shows that the same anti-liberal, violent attitude also grows in our own civilisation. I see that as proof that this terrorism is an aspect of our time. We cannot link it to a particular civilisation. There is nothing inherently intolerant about Islam. We must rather ask why this terrorist aspect of Islam arises now. The tension between tolerance and fundamentalist violence is within a civilisation. Take another example: on CNN we saw President Bush present a letter of a seven-year-old girl whose father is a pilot and now around Afghanistan. In the letter she said that she loves her father, but if her country needs his death, she is ready to give her father for her country. President Bush described this as American patriotism. Now, do a simple mental experiment — imagine the same event with an Afghan girl saying that. We would immediately say: 'What cynicism, what fundamentalism, what manipulation of small children.' So there is already something in our perception. But what shocks us in others we ourselves also do in a way.