Samuel Huntington’s theory of “Clash of Civilisations” was flatly rejected by speakers at a seminar titled “Dialogue of Civilisations in lieu of Clash of Civilisations” held as part of the Sixth Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade yesterday at the Sheraton.
The president of Western Michigan University, Dr Judith Bailey, rejected Huntington’s premise saying that it was an easily refutable argument. She indicated that Huntington’s view is very simplistic and fell short on respect for human conditions.
“Huntington presumes that there is a finite limit on the human spirit and that human being can only love and respect one’s culture and perspective, we call that a zero sum game”, Dr Bailey said while adding that Huntington quoted from Michael Dibdin’s Dead Lagoon novel: “There can be no true friends without enemies, we can not love what we are unless we hated what not we are”.
On the cultural contradictions between the East and the West, Dr Bailey admitted that there may be huge differences between some parts of our respective nations.
But, she said, such gulfs can not be labeled as “clashes between civilisations”.
“There are clashes between the forces of intolerance versus the forces of understanding and harmony. There are clashes between those who see the world in black and white and those of us who appreciate the shades of grey. I certainly have more in common with the voices of moderation in this room than I have with my countrymen”, she explained.
Refuting the idea that extremism is specific to a certain religion, Dr Baily said that each religion and each tradition has within it extreme voices that are true enemies of civilisation, development, democracy and freedom.
“The task for the rest of us is to hold true to the real values of our civilisation and to work together against extreme voices trying to prevent such dialogue”, she added. On her notion of promoting forces of dialogue and understanding, Dr Bailey regarded education and partnership between the educational establishments as the path to respect and understanding saying that education can be truly transformational.
Education exchange, she said, can play a major role in undermining potential clashes based on misunderstanding and ignorance. She called for an increase in the number of American students studying abroad .
“I think that such increase is an imperative in this era”, she said while stressing that American students who study abroad generally have broader world views than students who do not. Dr Bailey said: “My nation suffered a terrible blow on 9/11, and our reaction was swift and strong. Unfortunately some measures we took made it too difficult for students to take those lessons back to their nations”.
Senator Alima Boumediene of France, said that most of us believed that the conflict between the East and the West is over following the collapse of the cold war.
“We should not see the world being torn apart while we stand by”, she concluded.