In recent years, some scholars have spoken of a clash of
civilizations between Islam and modern secular (or Judeo-Christian) democratic
values and culture, or between Islamic civilization and the West.
Professor Samuel P. Huntington, in his article “The Clash
of Civilizations” and later in his book of the same name, argues that the root
of global conflict at the turn of the century is neither ideological nor
economic, but primarily cultural.
Huntington singles out Islamic civilization as the most
militant cultural form, and emphasizes the inherent conflict between it and
Western and other civilizations.
Although Huntington’s premise can be brought into question,
as shown by John Esposito (“Political Islam and the West”, JFQ, Spring
2000), the Muslim world today is torn by a deep internal conflict over the
essence and purpose of Islamic society. The outcome of this internal conflict
has dictated, and continues to dictate, the nature of the ties between Muslim
civilization and Western and other civilizations.
Islamic fundamentalism is funneled through dozens of
Islamist organizations that operate throughout the Muslim world. In addition,
there are three states – Iran, Afghanistan, and the Sudan – whose fundamentalist
Islamic regimes provide spiritual and material succor to the radical Islamic
movements. These states work independently and through the radical Islamic
movements to export the Islamic revolution to the entire Muslim world, and
spearhead the struggle against foreign – particularly Western – civilizations.
In this article we shall be focusing on a recent phenomenon
which clearly exemplifies Huntington’s theory of the “clash of civilizations” –
that of the “Afghan mujahideen” – the spearhead of radical Islam’s struggle
against heretical cultures. Despite their name, the “Afghan terrorists” are not
affiliated with a specific movement or state, but see themselves as the
representatives of Islam’s relentless struggle against secular Muslim regimes
and heretical cultures.
Osama bin Laden is one of the outstanding “products” of the
Afghan war, and his organization “Al-Qa’idah” is one of the main expressions of
the “Afghan” phenomenon. Bin Laden views his struggle as part of the conflict
between Islamic and other civilizations, particularly “the Jewish-Crusader
civilization”, as he calls it.
As a cultural struggle, the world-wide Afghan struggle is
being waged on three fronts: within Muslim countries (to reinstate the rule of
shari`ah law); in countries with Muslim minorities, situated on “fault
lines” with other cultures (the Balkans, the Caucasus, Kashmir, etc.); and,
internationally, in the struggle against Western, particularly US, civilization,
which is perceived by the fundamentalists as the source of all evil, and the
primary threat to Islam.
It looks as if the clash of civilizations as perceived by
Huntington, at one extreme, and Osama bin Laden, at the other, is with us to
stay, at least for the foreseeable future.