First Published: 2006-07-28

 
Avoiding a Clash of Civilizations
 

While American troops in Iraq continue to battle an ever-increasing insurgency, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqis, says Souheila Al-Jadda.

 

Middle East Online

The violent conflicts in Israel, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip as well as the war in Iraq make me question whether a “clash of civilizations” between the East and West is taking place right before our eyes.

I have never ascribed to Samuel Huntington’s famous “clash” theory, which states that the secular and liberal West is on a collision course with the religious and conservative East. I believe that we are all part of one, sometimes, wounded civilization on this earth. I believe that people of different nations, regions, cultures and creeds are more alike than we are different.

But these days, our differences have become more pronounced.

The world has drastically changed in the last several years following the tragic events of September 11th that took the lives of over 3000 innocent people. The Arab and Islamic worlds find themselves engulfed in conflicts from the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan to the Tigris River in Iraq to the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.

While American troops in Iraq continue to battle an ever-increasing insurgency, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqis. For the past five years, American troops alongside international forces in Afghanistan have been trying to root out the Al-Qaida terrorist organization and capture its leader Osama Bin Laden. Israel, backed by United States weaponry and political support, is engaged in military incursions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank while also battling Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

The continued fighting in all these areas has killed and wounded hundreds of people on all sides. In the conflict between Israel and Lebanon, more than 800,000 Lebanese have become refugees and over 600 civilians have been killed. Nearly 50 Israelis have also died, mainly soldiers.

Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East are watching as these tragedies unfold on their television sets. There is a growing perception in the region that anything coming from the West, especially America, will only bring death and destruction.

People in the West, too, have a similar view of the Arab and Muslim Middle East. Westerners are asking, “Why do they hate us?” But Arabs in the Middle East do not hate us for our freedoms, as many US officials have repeatedly claimed. They hate our foreign policy, which too often involves using military force against them or supporting authoritarian Arab regimes that use force against their own populations. According to a 2004 University of Maryland/Zogby International poll, a majority of Arabs look to foreign policy when shaping their views of the US

Respondents were asked whether their attitudes towards the United States were “based more on American values or on American policy in the Middle East." US policy was cited by 86 per cent of respondents in Saudi Arabia, 80 per cent in Lebanon, 79 per cent in Morocco, 76 per cent in Jordan and 75 per cent in the United Arab Emirates.

So, what does this tell us? It tells me that the more Western nations and their proxies use military might to carry out foreign policies, the more “they” will hate the West and the more our security is threatened.

This should concern every American because these wars are used as recruiting tools for other terrorist groups. In his farewell video, Mohammed Sadiq Khan, one of the suicide bombers who perpetrated the 7/7 explosions last year on London’s public transit system said he wanted to avenge the innocent civilians being killed in Iraq. Terrorists have already begun to exploit the US-backed Israeli war on Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, offering yet another reason to exact retribution on innocent people in the West.

Ayman Al Zawahiri, did not hesitate to issue his call for Muslims to fight the “crusading” West in his latest video that was aired on the Arabic language Al-Jazeera satellite station. In his speech, Zawahiri did not criticize liberal democracy, freedom or justice - all values shared by Western democracies. Rather, he blasted the wars, death and destruction occurring in the Middle East at the hands, in his view, of America and Israel.

I am the first to admit there are no easy answers to solving the many conflicts of this world. Some are deep and complex, requiring tough decisions and compromises by the parties involved. But the past five years of continued violence in parts of the Islamic world shows that excessive force and “shock and awe” policies do not solve deep-rooted conflicts but exacerbates them. Military might may win wars, but in the end, it loses hearts and minds.

For the bloodshed in the Middle East to stop, the only superpower in the world, the US, must do more talking and less fighting. America must dialogue with the international community, even with our enemies like Syria and Iran, which it accuses of supporting terrorist groups in the region.

If we want to avoid a clash of civilizations, then the international community, especially the United Nations, must work harder to eliminate these “clashes,” particularly in the Middle East. We must return to basic moral principles of promoting peace, justice and freedom for all - not just a select few. This can only be achieved by using diplomacy and direct negotiations as the primary tools to resolve disputes. When these many “clashes” are finally eliminated through peaceful conflict resolution, only then will our wounded civilization ever be healed.

Souheila Al-Jadda is a journalist and associate producer of a Peabody award-winning program, Mosaic: World News from the Middle East, on Link TV

 

Extremist groups capture last major regime holdout in northwest Syria

Deadly fighting rages in Yemen southern towns

‘Islamic State’ suicide bombers target Iraq-Jordan crossing

Four Egypt Islamists killed while preparing bombs

France opens preliminary probe into forced labour allegations in Qatar

‘Islamic State’ kills Iraq senior officers in Anbar province

Entrepreneurs encourage people to ‘buy Syrian’

Over 100 children killed in Yemen since March 26

Libya militia alliance 'carries out air raids' against IS

UN 'confident' rebels will sign Mali peace deal

Petraeus gets two years probation for info leak

Iranian ships turn back from Yemen

Palestinians mourn as Jews celebrate

UN chief set to appoint Mauritanian diplomat as Yemen envoy

Obama takes 'full responsibility' for deaths of Qaeda hostages in US operation

Turkey warns Austria over decision to condemn ‘Armenian genocide’

Yemen conflict poses dangers across Gulf of Aden

Hopes for final deal on second day of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna

Security tightened at Saudi shopping malls

US returns stolen Egypt artifacts

EU mulls military action against human traffickers in Libya

Libyan journalist shot dead in Benghazi

Arms experts warn of 'Faustian bargain' with Iran

Fresh Saudi-led air strikes target Yemen rebels

Rebel-IS clashes in Syria kill at least 42 fighters in 24 hours

Who’s more dangerous: Jihadists who left their countries or those staying at home?

France foils 'imminent' attack by jihadist sympathiser

Algeria army kills three armed Islamists west of capital

Israel removes Palestinian teen's name from memorial wall

Egyptian businessman testifies at Al-Jazeera retrial

Kenya asks donors to save world’s largest refugee camp

Sanctions, possible Congress intervention to dominate fresh nuclear talks

Arab army chiefs kick off work on building regional force

One year after agreement, Palestinian reconciliation hits rock bottom

Arab coalition resumes airstrikes against Huthi rebels

UN member states urged to protect Iraqi cultural sites

London mulls ways to help Europe's refugee crisis

Finalising of Iran nuclear deal set to begin

Saudi–led coalition declares end to Yemen air war

Palestine teenager inscribed on Israel memorial wall

Deadly attack targets busy restaurant in Somalia capital

War in Yemen raises profile of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Libya condemns 'death smugglers' after shipwreck

Sudan security agents detain opposition activist

Main Kurdish party vows to be 'sultan' Erdogan's nightmare