Is an Islamic Middle Age ‘darkness’ ahead of us?
The clash of civilizations is a concept first suggested by Samuel Huntington in an address to the American Enterprise Institute in 1992.
It coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and what has been understood from it since then was that the next set of clashes would take place between religious-based cultural worlds, instead of economy-based ideological ones; the West with its Judeo-Christian origins and the East with Islam.
The issue was taken seriously, at least by the United Nations following the 9/11 attacks of al-Qaeda, and even an “Alliance of Civilizations” concept was formed under the co-chair of Turkish and Spanish prime ministers. The fate of that project was no different to some other U.N. projects, but Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has put a special emphasis of the project, especially in domestic fronts.
President Abdullah Gül, though, brought a brand new dimension to the clash of civilizations thesis, saying there was today a bigger threat from the clash within the civilization of the Islamic world, which could end up with the doomsday scenario of getting into the “darkness” of an Islamic Middle Age, which the Europeans emerged from long ago.
In his speech to the international Istanbul Forum on Oct. 4, Gül said that under the current circumstances the Middle East faced two scenarios. The first one would be “based on power balances and perception of geopolitical interests.” He continued as follows: “This brings with it a conflicting understanding based on geopolitics, which is reinforced by ethnic and sectarian identity politics that will take the Middle East to the darkness of the Middle Ages that Europe went through. There is no possibility or probability that any country, sect or community can come out beneficially from such a period. In other words, this scenario will lead to a ‘clash within the civilization,’ that will be more detrimental than the ‘clash of civilizations,’ is the disaster scenario where everybody loses.”
Gül’s second and optimistic scenario “rejects ethnic, sectarian identity politics that are based on shallow geopolitical interests,” taking lessons from European experiences to “transform the region into a space of peace, stability and welfare by meeting along common values and interests.”
Unfortunately, there is little room for optimism under the current circumstances in the Middle East (in the greater sense) where, especially after the rise and fall of the Arab Spring wave, the Islamic movements with rising popularity are not the moderate ones who stay away from terrorism, including the Muslim Brotherhood. The popularity of al-Qaeda affiliated jihadist groups are gaining strength.
Not in the name of repeating Seymour Hersh, questioning whether the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was really killed by U.S. commandos, but al-Qaeda activities are no more limited to Afghanistan since the U.S. announced that bin Laden was killed in an operation in Pakistan on May 2, 2011 and his body was dropped into the Indian Ocean. With the Arab Spring having failed in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya and in the disastrous example of Syria, al-Qaeda is gaining ground, forming regional battlefields to seize power in places like Mali, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria, by merging its fighters from neighboring areas and countries.
The major al-Qaeda activities are no longer in the Western world but in the East, perhaps under the "let them eat each other" gaze of Western intelligence officers.
Gül’s warning against the threat of Islamic Middle Age darkness, worse than a clash of civilizations, should be taken seriously by the West, as well as the East.