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MURAT YETKİN > Back to a Clash of Civilizations debate?

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Amid the mourning and anger caused by the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced yesterday that no government agency had any connection to a film on the web that aims to humiliate Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

In a seemingly unrelated but coincidentally interesting development, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also remarked yesterday that immigrants in Germany created opportunities for the economic and social welfare of the country; little more than a year ago, however, she said that the multi-kulti thing was over and that foreigners in Germany had to learn how to behave there.

And Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, speaking in Ukraine, toned down his reaction; he condemned the attack and condemned the film while also underlining that this should not stop Libya from continuing on its road to stability and perhaps democracy.

All of the statements came after the rise of outrage in a number of Islamic countries. In Yemen and Iraq, too, like Libya and Egypt, agitated groups tried to attack U.S. targets there; in all of those countries, al-Qaeda and different factions of Salafi groups are highly active. Even from media reports, anyone can forecast increasing activity on an axis from Somalia to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the hopes in the Western world for the possibility of democratic stability in the Arab world through the Arab Spring might be turning into the nightmare of the Clash of Civilization thesis.

The Clash of Civilization thesis was detailed by political scientist Samuel Huntington in his 1996 book, which claimed that people’s cultural and religious identities would be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world; that was in answer to Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 thesis that the end of the Cold War and its ideologies also entailed the “End of History.”

In the early 2000s, from Sept. 11, 2001, to the worldwide outrage and crisis which cost many lives in 2004-5 because of the ridicule toward Islam in the Danish cartoons, Turkish PM Erdoğan, together with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, started the Alliance of Civilizations initiative during the U.N. General Assembly meetings in 2005. That was followed by the 2008 Madrid, 2009 Istanbul and 2010 Rio de Janeiro meetings. This year in Istanbul, Spain has implied that it cannot allocate more funds for the project because of the economic crisis. Despite the goodwill of the Alliance of Civilizations, the project has not proven much of a success. The Clash of Civilizations thesis could be regarded as an exaggeration itself because it tries to categorize the world in religious terms, but it is recalled whenever a big incident like the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya occurs.

It raises the inevitable question of whether the Arab Spring, which was meant to bring democracy in the region, is now being hijacked by fanatical groups possibly worse than the former dictators.

September/14/2012

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