The scourge of our times

The scourge of our times

Developments appear to confirm what I have always believed concerning Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations.” While there is truth in what Huntington said, living in the day and age that I do, for me the real clash of civilizations has never been between Muslims and Christians, or Muslims and Hindus or, for that matter, between Jews and Catholics.

In this modern age, the real clash is between those who are secular in outlook – and yet have no quarrel with the devout as long as they keep their beliefs to themselves – and fundamentalists who try to impose their beliefs on others. The bottom line is that every religion has its own “shariah,” which may be a loaded term for Christians but really only means a “body of law.”

I have had firsthand experience, not just of the Islamic shariah, but also of the Catholic and Jewish ones. All are equally meddling when it comes to the way others chose to live. Coming from “backward Turkey,” I was flabbergasted in 1972, when I landed in Ireland as a 19 year old, where I eventually studied, married and where our daughter was born, to see that it was not a secular country. 

One could not get divorced, and using a condom was against the law because the Catholic Church considered it a sin. The church was trying to impose itself on private lives everywhere. In fairness to the Irish, and their current prime minister, Enda Kenny, they have put an end to all that nonsense. 
Now we see Israelis are up in arms over the religious fundamentalism manifesting itself in the country. Modern Israelis and their supporters in the West, who like to wax lyrical about Islamic fundamentalism, are now realizing they are not immune to the same primitivism.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may not have any, but I have always had great respect for Israeli President Shimon Peres, who I have met on a number of occasions and interviewed. My respect increased after his strong remarks against the Jewish fundamentalists in the town of Beit Shemesh. 
There is no other way to respond to fundamentalists who are prepared to spit on and torment an 8-year-old girl as a “whore” and a “Nazi” for being “immodestly dressed.” Be it Islamic, Jewish, Christian or Hindu, fundamentalism is the growing scourge of our times for those who cherish a modern and secular lifestyle.
Unfortunately, it is increasing across the world, and not just in the Middle East. Take presidential hopeful New Gingrich in the United States who recently hit the headlines for claiming that Palestinians are not a real nation. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times responded to Gingrich on the Palestinian issue with the necessary adjectives, so there is no need to go into that here. 

The point is that Gingrich, who is a fundamentalist, has been an avid opponent of secularism, arguing the U.S. Constitution does not say anywhere that the U.S. is a secular country. 

Left to him, he would impose a Christian outlook on the country in the same way fundamentalist regimes in the Middle East impose the Islamic outlook on their countries. 

Put another way, if it were up to religious fundamentalists of all shades, we would be heading back to the Middle Ages and the days of the Crusades. This is why there is a growing need for vigilance against this scourge, whether you live in Turkey, Israel or the U.S. 

As for Huntington, getting too caught up in his version of the “Clash of Civilizations” will only blind one to the real “clash” developing between people who want to live in a modern world without interference, and those who want to turn the clock back centuries and impose a religious way of life on others.