Obama seeks to avoid “clash of civilizations”

April 7, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama ended his trip to Muslim Turkey on Tuesday by calling for peace and dialogue with Islam and the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

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In his first trip as president to the Muslim world, Obama sought to rebuild ties after anger at the invasion of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan and accusations his predecessor George W. Bush was biased in favor of Israel.

You can see some of our coverage of his trip here and here.

Obama’s visit, in which he said America “will never be at war with Islam,” marks a strong shift in U.S. policy after his predecessor Bush upset Muslims with his backing for Israel, invasion of Iraq and branding of Iran as part of an “axis of evil.”

Obama will now need to flesh out, through policies, his promises to engage the Muslim world.

Among other things, Obama clearly seems keen to avoid the “clash of civilizations” that the late political scientist Samuel Huntington famously evoked.

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 perhaps inevitable.

Obama, a practicing Christian who spent part of his youth in overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia, clearly envisions a different scenario unfolding between Islam and the West.

What do you think? Are civilizations doomed to clash, especially if they have deep religious differences? Or can diplomacy, cooler heads, and common values prevail?

(Photo : U.S. President Barack Obama (C) and Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (L) visit Byzantine era monument of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul April 7, 2009. REUTERS/Erhan Sevenler/Pool (TURKEY)

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