The history of clashes, conflicts, and wars is as old as humanity itself. In a world tinted with differences in race, color, language, religion, ideologies, laws and civilizations, conflicts are inevitable. Both classical and contemporary thinkers and philosophers have asserted this very truth of human attitudes. From the ‘white supremacy’ of the 17th century to the ‘Arab Nationalism’ of the 20th century, a strong sense of association and attachments to a set belief or ideology has, now and again, led to colossal conflicts and clashes on a global scale. Hence, the clash of civilizations has remained an integral ingredient in shaping the present day geopolitical scenario, and will continue to dominate global politics in the future as well.
The clash of civilizations has remained an integral ingredient in shaping the present day geopolitical scenario, and will continue to dominate global politics in the future as well.
However, the world today, under the influence of the principles of postmodernism, is caught amidst the ambiance of skepticism and mistrust particularly towards religious ideologies. Popular contemporary terms such as radicalization, extremism, and terrorism, and their association with the notion of religion, persuade one to blame religion for all the bloodshed that takes place regularly today, while an objective look at history would reveal that the reality is obverse to this conception. According to the history of recorded warfare documented in the Encyclopedia of Wars, only 123 out of 1, 763 wars involved religious causes, accounting for less than seven percent of all wars and less than two percent of all people killed in warfare.
However, the world today, under the influence of the principles of postmodernism, is caught amidst the ambiance of skepticism and mistrust particularly towards religious ideologies.
Throughout history in almost every era, there have existed elements having no religious affiliation, referred to as radicals, extremists, even terrorists. Rome suffered from such elements in the form of various barbarian tribes it encountered in its quest for imperial domination, chiefly in the guise of Attila and his Huns. In Ancient China beyond the Great Wall, a threat to Chinese civilization emerged in the form of the Xiongnu, the non-Chinese elements, considered barbarians, savages, extremists, and even radicals. In more contemporary times, immediately after the inception of the Cold War, the USSR was considered ‘the red menace,’ and Communism, a scourge by the more liberal West. The Irish Republican Army, better known as ‘the IRA’, was a thorn in the British side for a long time and it too was considered a radical and terrorist organization.
According to the history of recorded warfare documented in the Encyclopedia of Wars, only 123 out of 1, 763 wars involved religious causes, accounting for less than seven percent of all wars and less than two percent of all people killed in warfare.
It is not unknown that since the end of the Cold War, Islam has been highlighted as the ‘new enemy’ of the West. Winston Churchill, in 1899, in his account, The River War, stated unequivocally, that:
No stronger retrograde force exists in the world (than Islam). Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.
Predominantly, in the post 9/11 world, there has been an evident intensification in the apprehensions of the Western world towards Islam or what it has come to be termed as; radical Islam. To that effect, George W. Bush in one of his speeches said that the eradication of radical Islam is America’s top priority.
Today, the true message of Islam and the image of Muslims around the world in general are two elements that are directly targeted by the Western media for self-serving propagandistic purposes. The global community is being fed by the distorted and, in many cases, biased information regarding basic Islamic tenets, especially Jihad; a concept most misunderstood while attempting a fundamental understanding, and misinterpreted in the course of interpretation. This has generated a resentment and hatred towards Muslims and paving the way to heightened levels of Islamophobia.
Samuel P. Huntington, originator of the theory of the ‘Clash of Civilizations,’ in his article entitled ‘The Age of Muslim Wars’, has made the following statement,
Contemporary global politics is the age of Muslim wars. Muslims fight each other and fight non-Muslims far more often than do peoples of other civilizations. Muslim wars have replaced the Cold War as the principal form of international conflict. These wars include wars of terrorism, guerrilla wars, civil wars and interstate conflicts. These instances of Muslim violence could congeal into one major clash of civilizations between Islam and the West or between Islam and the Rest.
Huntington writes in his book, ‘Clash of Civilizations and the remaking of the New World Order’,
Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.
This half-cooked and rather complex portrayal of Islam and Muslims calls for a serious and mature response from the Muslim community on every front. Jihad, unlike other pillars of Islam, has remained a contentious subject of discussion and debate among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The myriad of terrorist organizations currently proliferating at an alarming rate around the world are misusing Quranic and other accepted religious texts to justify homicidal acts such as suicide bombing, even against Muslims. Therefore, to understand the concept of Jihad in its true sense in the light of authentic sources and scholarly analysis is more essential for Muslims than it is for our contemporaries in the West.
Today, the true message of Islam and the image of Muslims around the world in general are two elements that are directly targeted by the Western media for self-serving propagandistic purposes.
It requires a deep, thorough study to fully grasp the technicalities and the nitty-gritty of the concept of Jihad, more particularly in the evolving scenario of the contemporary world. Jihad within Quranic texts must be elaborated upon based on the accepted scholarship of legitimate and enlightened religious scholars who are best placed to refute the perverted, convoluted ideologies of the various extremist outfits currently in existence.
To be continued…