‘Clash of Civilizations’ author dies, thesis lives on
Political scientist Samuel Huntington, whose controversial book “The Clash of Civilizations” predicted conflict between the West and the Islamic world, has died at age 81, Harvard University said on Saturday. You can see our story here.
In his 1996 “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” which expanded on his 1993 article in Foreign Affairs magazine, Huntington divided the world into rival civilizations based mainly on religious traditions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism and said competition and conflict among them was inevitable.
His thesis was one of the most influential, controversial and widely debated in foreign affairs circles in the past decade or so.
His focus on religion rather than ideology as a source of conflict in the post-Cold War world triggered broad debate about relations between the Western and Islamic worlds, especially in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.
Huntington famously asserted that “Islam has bloody borders.”
“In Eurasia the great historic fault lines between civilizations are once more aflame,” he wrote. “This is particularly true along the boundaries of the crescent-shaped Islamic bloc of nations from the bulge of Africa to central Asia. Violence also occurs between Muslims, on the one hand, and Orthodox Serbs in the Balkans, Jews in Israel, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Burma and Catholics in the Philippines.”
Fifteen years later, tensions between India and Pakistan are near the boiling point in the wake of last month’s attacks in Mumbai by Islamist militants; an Israeli military offensive has killed more than 300 people in Gaza over the last three days in the deadliest violence in the territory in decades; hundreds died in Muslim/Christian clashes in Nigeria last month; and the United States finds itself bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But next month America will swear in its first black president, a Christian whose Kenyan father had an Islamic background. And there has been an outburst in recent months of inter-faith dialogue and initiatives, including at the street level in tense places such as Nigeria.
What do you think? Are civilizations doomed to clash, especially if they are divided by religion? Or can cooler heads prevail?