Samuel P. Huntington’s rather lengthy article “The Clash of Civilisations? ” manages to cover a lot of ground (Huntington, 1993). It addresses how different civilisations interact externally and internally, devoting the most space to the “Muslim” vs. the “West” interaction. On the other hand Edward W. Said’s “The Clash of Ignorance” takes a direct aim at Huntington’s opinions and expands upon them by presenting his own views of the after mentioned interaction (Said, 2001).
Although Huntington presents the world as a rather simplistic place, Said presents a more convincing argument in which the world is a much more complicated place. According to Huntington, “the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural” and also “It is far more meaningful now to group countries not in terms of their political or economic systems or in terms of their level of economic development but rather in terms of their culture and civilization. (Huntington, 1993, I).
I can certainly argue with that. It has never been officially proven, but despite what the Bush’s administration claimed, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) were never found in Iraq in the time of Iraq-U. S. war. You can argue that the main reason the U. S. went to war with Iraq was to protect its oil stakes in that region of the world. Thus the Iraq-U. S. conflict was not based on a “clash of civilisations”; rather it was based on oil.
In my opinion this makes that conflict economic despite what Huntington stated in his hypothesis (Huntington, 1993, I). By pigeonholing countries based only on their culture and civilisation, Huntington is simplifying whole regions just because of their religion and history. I think there is more to it than that. For example, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq are in the same region but their political, cultural and economic status is different compared to each other.
In my opinion it works best when every country is treated as a separate entity rather than just judging a whole host of countries in the same way just because they share the same borders and religions. Huntington claims that there are “seven or eight major civilisations” in the world (Huntington, 1993, III). Furthermore he starts chapter III with the question “Why Civilisations Will Clash? ” (Huntington, 1993, III). The world is a complicated place thus simply dividing it in civilisations is simplifying a much bigger picture.
What does a clash between civilisations means? According to Huntington, the Middle East is part of one civilisation and the U. S. A. is part of another (Huntington, 1993, III). Does that mean that the current Iraq-U. S. A. conflict is a clash between the Western and Islamic civilisations or just a conflict between two countries with different views and interests? Iraq is not the only country in the “Islamic” civilisation and the U. S. A. , albeit the most powerful, is not the only country in the “Western” civilisation.
Thus Huntington’s remarks are just too ignorant and simplify issues that are lot more complex than that. In contrast, Edward W. Said, in his article “The Clash of Ignorance”, makes very good points of not simplifying the whole world with all-knowing statements (Said, 2001). Huntington made clear that West is West, and Islam is Islam and the world is constructed of different civilisations. Said says “a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance is involved in presuming to speak for a whole religion or civilization. (Said, 2001, 1). He sees the world as vastly more complicated place compared to Huntington. Those two are very different points and in my opinion Said makes a much better point in explaining that the world is not as simple as Huntington made it out to be. A great deal has been made of the fact that the 9/11 terrorists were Muslim and based on that the U. S. should judge the whole Middle East. Of course those are all very ignorant remarks which unfortunately have made Huntington’s remarks very prevelent.
Said’s explanation of 9/11 being “carefully planned and horrendous, pathologically motivated suicide attack and mass slaughter by a small group of deranged militants… is the capture of big ideas (I use the word loosely) by a tiny band of crazed fanatics for criminal purposes” puts things in a much better perspective without jumping on ignorant stereotypes such as “the Middle East is full of terrorist” (Said, 2001, 1).
Not all Muslim are “terrorists”. In fact, there are “Western” terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh, who in 1995 destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in the city centre of Oklahoma City, killing 168 victims and injuring more than 680 (Oklahoma City bombing, 2009). Said hits the nail on the head by stating that “This is the problem with unedifying labels like Islam and the West: They mislead and confuse the mind, which is trying to make sense of a disorderly reality that won’t be pigeonholed or strapped down as easily as all that. ” (Said, 2001, 2). Thus by judging every Islamic country and their people in the same way we disregard the history of the region and the fact that every country is its own entity and should be judged separately.
I find Edward W. Said’s “The Clash of Ignorance” a lot more persuasive compared to Samuel P. Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilisations? ” It looks like Huntington just hammered his ideas into sentences without actually thinking of the complexity of the ideas he was discussing. Or maybe his intended audience only looked for simplified and biased opinion of how the West is the most important “civilisation” and how best to deal with the rest of the “civilisations”.
On the other hand, Said’s article presents the world as a much more complex place compared to Huntington and rightfully so. It is not all one-sided and there is fault on both Muslim and Western sides which is clearly presented by Said quoting Eqbal Ahmad from Pakistan’s “Dawn” weekly (Said, 2001, 2). It is clear that there is prominent Muslims who are able to judge themselves rather harshly if necessary. A lesson which Huntington will be best take notice from.