Samuel Huntington’s theory that there is an imminent, and bloody, clash of civilizations between Islam and the West; the Danish cartoons that portrayed the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a terrorist; George Bush’s recently-coined term ‘Islamo-facists’; and now the Pope quoting the old Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologos from the time of the Crusades, all point to the growing trend of using absolute, religious rhetoric to define the relationship between Muslims and Western civilization.
Words such as ‘evil-doers’ and ‘crusade’ clearly evoke strong historical allusions, attempting to draw a parallel between a past of religious conflict and the present. It seems as if there is a concentrated agenda from some of the most powerful leaders of today to frame the current international conflict as a religious war. As a society that trumpets the values of speech and rational thinking, the dialogue that is framing our ‘war on terror’ is surprisingly simplistic, erroneous, misleading and provocative.
What is wrong with these incidents? To start with, Huntington’s idea that there is an imminent clash between two vastly different civilizations fails to take into account a history where people of different faiths have lived in harmony for hundreds of years throughout the Middle East and in the West.
The Danish cartoons were drawn to provoke a reaction to an extremely sensitive issue for Muslims, to show that Muslims are not reasonable human beings; the media then used the extreme reactions of a few hundred to categorize the reactions of over one billion followers.
The president has repeatedly referenced religion when referring to the war on terror, calling it a ‘crusade’ and appointing heads like General Boykin who believe Muslims worship Satan. All of these things help enforce what I would term ‘apocalyptic talk’