Sunday, October 01, 2006

It's not just Afghanistan, Iraq and a "war on terror." It's the West vs. the Islamic world, a clash that has never abated.

OP-ED OF THE DAY: In this powerful piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jonathan Last makes points that the Neocon has been making for years: namely, that what we are witnessing now is simply the latest manifestation of a centuries-old struggle between Islamic civilization, and the mostly Christian civilization of the west. It would be a mistake however to view this struggle strictly from a religious POV, because culture is as much, if not more of a flash-point; enlightened reasoning versus absolute devotion to dogma; tolerance vs. coercion, compulsion, force and intimidation. Cruelty, bullying and oppression vs. compassion and empathy:

As Pope Benedict XVI explains in his book Without Roots, the very concept of "Europe" emerged as a reaction to the surge of Islam. Not until the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 did the Islamic tide recede definitively. For the next 300 years, Western civilization was ascendant and the Islamic world stagnated. But the conflict between the two cultures never fully abated. Throughout the 20th century, Western countries tussled with Islamic states or their non-state proxies. And, as columnist Mark Steyn points out, when you gaze at conflicts around the globe today, the one constant is Islam. Muslims are fighting, or have recently fought, Jews in the Mideast, Hindus in Kashmir, Christians in Nigeria, atheists in Russia, Buddhists in Thailand and Burma, Catholics in the Philippines, and Orthodox Christians in the Balkans. Some argue that these conflicts arise not from a clash of civilizations, but from specific grievances, such as the West's support of Israel. This is an unsatisfactory argument. In his 1990 essay "The Roots of Muslim Rage," professor Bernard Lewis pointed out: "The French have left Algeria, the British have left Egypt, the Western oil companies have left their oil wells, the westernizing shah has left Iran, yet the generalized resentment of the fundamentalists... against the West and its friends remains and grows and is not appeased." The cause of conflict is not what the West does, but what the West is.
Jonathan Last

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