Civilizations Clash, With or Without Religion
FOREIGN POLICY: JANUARY/FEBRUARY
Moderator Mike Ghouse: Indeed, the extremists have always manufactured an enemy who would become a threat to their people. The latest creation is Islam. Every idiot who can write can cash in on Islam bashing, there are plenty of them out there. I guess, as long as there are suckers to fund them, they will keep manufacturing.
What would the world be like without Islam? No clash of civilizations? No 9/11? No holy wars?
Actually, all of these events would likely have occurred, says Graham Fuller, a professor of history at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a former forecaster for the Central Intelligence Agency. Take away Islam, and the world would still be left with the main forces that drive today's conflicts, including colonialism, cross-national ideologies, ethnic conflicts and terrorism, Mr. Fuller says.
Mr. Fuller ponders a litany of history's major battles to drive home his message that while Islam might be a convenient culprit, global strife, past and present, can't be blamed on any one religion. Europeans would still have wanted the spoils of the Middle East and launched the Crusades, he says, albeit under a different banner. The West still would have tried to get control of oil-rich areas. The French would still have gone into Algeria for its farm lands. The creation of Israel still would have displaced Palestinians, no matter what their religion.
The inhabitants of the Middle East wouldn't be more comfortable with these events if they belonged to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Middle East's predominant religion when Muhammad arrived. In fact, a religious fissure between Western Europe and the Middle East would probably still exist, says Mr. Fuller, noting that Eastern Orthodox Christianity has an anti-Western narrative of its own dating to the sack of Constantinople in 1204.
True, without Islam, the people of the Middle East would lack a powerful, crossborder unifying force that sometimes is co-opted by a small number of people inclined toward violence. But the Middle East would have access to similar forces, such as Marxism or ethnic nationalism, that have served that purpose in other parts of the world. In 2006, the crime-data clearing house Europol said, only one of the 498 terrorist acts in the European Union was Islamist. The rest were largely committed by separatist and left-wing groups.