Al-Ahram Weekly Online   17 - 23 August 2006
Issue No. 808
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Avoiding a clash of civilisations

Souheila Al-Jadda

The violent conflicts in Israel, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip as well as the war in Iraq make me question whether a "clash of civilisations" between East and West is taking place right before our eyes. Continued fighting in all these areas has killed and wounded hundreds of people on all sides. There is a growing perception among Arabs and Muslims that anything coming from the West -- especially America -- will only bring death and destruction.

People in the West, too, have a similar view of the Arab and Muslim Middle East. Westerners are asking, "why do they hate us?" But Arabs in the Middle East do not hate freedoms, as many US officials have repeatedly claimed. They hate Western foreign policy, which too often involves using military force against them or supporting authoritarian Arab regimes that use force against their own populations.

The more Western nations and their proxies use military might to carry out foreign policies, the more those under the gun will hate the West, its security thereby threatened.

The past five years of continued violence in parts of the Islamic world show that excessive force -- epitomised in "shock and awe" tactics -- does not solve deep-rooted conflicts but exacerbates them. Military prowess can win wars, but in the end, it loses hearts and minds.

For bloodshed in the Middle East to stop, the only superpower in the world, the US, must do more talking and less fighting. America must dialogue with the international community, even with Syria and Iran, which the US accuses of supporting terrorist groups in the region.

If we want to avoid a clash of civilisations, then the international community, especially the United Nations, must work harder to eliminate these "clashes", particularly in the Middle East. We must return to basic moral principles of promoting peace, justice and freedom for all, not just a select few.

This week's Soapbox speaker is a journalist and associate producer of a Peabody Award- winning programme, "Mosaic: World News from the Middle East," on Link TV.

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