DOC

Europa The European Union European Commission U

By Kenneth Ramos,2014-06-18 00:44
15 views 0
Europa The European Union European Commission U ...

No. 86/04

    May 24, 2004

    “ISLAM AND THE WEST – AT THE CROSSROADS”

    EU COMMISSIONER FOR EXTERNAL RELATIONS CHRIS PATTEN

    THE OXFORD CENTER FOR ISLAMIC STUDIES

    OXFORD, UK

    If Samuel Huntington were a share, he would today be what market tipsters call a strong buy. That is

    bad news, because the clash of civilizations, which he predicted in his essay for Foreign Affairs in 1993, at the moment casts a gibbet’s shadow over the prospects for liberal order around the world.

    Depressingly, witlessly, we have to a great extent shaped our own disaster-in-waiting. Some of the global problems that we shall face in this century for example, whether China can make an accommodation between economic license and political authority are matters for a circumscribed few, in this case a small cadre of bureaucratic politicians in Peking. Others like “Day after Tomorrow” environmental disasters – have to some extent already been set in train by past greed and

    ecological pillage. But a clash between the world which likes to think of itself as being primarily made

    in the mould of the New Testament and the Islamic world of another Book is a catastrophe that we

    seem sedulously set on triggering through acts both of omission and commission. How can things

    have come to this?

    Let me jog back for a moment to Huntington’s thesis. Hot on the heels of liberalism’s triumph – the breaching of the Berlin Wall, the fall of Europe’s last empire, the opening of markets by technology

    and international agreement Huntington warned against the easy assumption that we could now

    relax, a cold war won without the use of any of those engines of death stockpiled in silos from Utah to

    the Ukraine. Conflict was not after all a subject for the history books. “The most important conflicts of the future,” he wrote, “will occur along the cultural fault lines separating... civilizations from each

    other.” The differences between civilizations were more fundamental than those between political

    ideologies, and the more the world was shrunk by technology, the more we became aware of them.

    Globalization weakened local and national identities, and the gap was filled by religion with non-

    western civilizations returning to their roots, re-Islamizing for instance the Middle East. Moreover,

    cultural, or as he largely argues it, religious characteristics are less likely to change than those that

    are political or economic. “Conflict,” he notes, “along the fault line between Western and Islamic

    civilizations has been going on for 1300 years” and “on both sides the interaction between Islam and

    the West is seen as a clash of civilizations.” Popular in academic circles in the West, his theories are

    also extensively quoted on jihadist websites in the Arab world.

    There were other civilizational clashes as well to which Huntington drew attention. But his arguments

    never convinced me. I spent a good deal of time during my years in Hong Kong pointing out that there

    was not some cultural divide between the so-called Confucian world (“so-called” usually by those who have never read Confucius and tend to confuse him with Lee Kuan Yew) and the West which strips

    Asians of civil liberties and denies them democracy. Sun Yat Sen had apparently never existed. Many

    of us argued that human rights were universally valid, and that democracy under the rule of law was

    the best system of government everywhere. And with the Asian financial crash and the discrediting of

    the Asian model of crony capitalism and authoritarian politics, the controversy seemed done and

    dusted. The clash of civilizations was the stuff of provocative academic seminars. Then the planes slammed in to the Twin Towers, and the world changed.

    Well, of course, it was not quite that simple. The pretexts, the causes, the narrative of atrocity began

    much earlier than 2001. And we had scholarly guides to point us down the right exploratory tracks. Oh,

    to have been the publisher of Professor Bernard Lewis, sage of Princeton. I admit to a personal debt

    to his scholarship. I have enjoyed, and I hope, learned from a number of his books. But I have started to worry as I read on from What Went Wrong? to The Crisis of Islam that I am being carefully pointed in a particular direction, lined up before the fingerprints, the cosh, the swag bag and

    the rest of the evidence. “Most Muslims,” he tells us in The Crisis of Islam, “are not fundamentalists, and most fundamentalists are not terrorists, but most present-day terrorists are Muslims and proudly

    identify themselves as such.” Well, yes – and it’s a sentence that resonates in parts of the policy-

making community in Washington. But what if I had tried a similar formulation on some of these same

    policy makers just after the IRA bombed Harrods in London: “Most Catholics are not extremist Irish

    republicans, and most extreme republicans are not terrorists, but most terrorists in Britain today are

    Catholic and proudly identify themselves as such.” I suspect that it is not a sentence that would have

    increased my circle of admirers in America, not because it is wrong but because it is so loaded with

    an agenda. Anyway, what we have been taught is that there is a rage in the Islamic world in part the

    result of history and humiliation which fuels hostility to America and to Europe too, home of past crusaders and present infidel feudatories of the Great Satan. Clash go the civilizations.

    There are many ways of coming at this issue, but I wish myself to be rather prosaic. I will not therefore

    deal with the religious arguments, leaving them to retired archbishops and other distinguished

    theologians, only noting in doing so that according to a Sunday Times survey in January, more Muslims attend a place of worship in the UK each week than Anglicans. Nor do I want to penetrate

    deep into the debate about whether Europe and its very secular Union represent Christian civilization,

    a rather up-market exclusive club, ties for dinner that sort of thing. There is a past and present to

    this discussion. Having been brought up on the medieval scholarship of Richard Southern who

    examined me when I came up to Oxford as a sixteen-year-old, perhaps I know a little more about the

    past, certainly enough to remember the doctor in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales who established his credentials by recalling the great names of medical science with which he was familiar six were from

    Greece and Rome, three from the medieval Islamic world. And what of Thomas Aquinas? He read

    Latin versions of the Greek philosophers, courtesy of the scholars at the Muslim School of Translation

    in Toledo, to which we owe so much of our knowledge of the scientific, religious and philosophical

    works of the ancient world.

    As for the present religious, ethnic or civilizational nature of our European club, there are probably

    about twelve million Muslims living in Western Europe, approaching four million in France, two-and-a-

    half million in Germany, one-and-three-quarter million here. Their religion is the fastest growing in the

    world. They practice it in Europe in a union of nation states formed out of the bloody wreckage of the th20 century. Our recent history of gas chambers and gulags, our Christian heritage of flagrant or more

    discreet anti-Semitism, do not entitle us to address the Islamic world as though we dwelt on a higher

    plane, custodians of a superior set of moral values. Our prejudices may be rock solid but our pulpits

    are made of straw.

    What of this Islamic world which allegedly confronts our own civilization? It is sometimes forgotten that

    three-quarters of its 1.2 billion citizens live beyond the countries of the Arab League, in for example

    the democracies of Malaysia, Indonesia and India. Asian Muslim societies have their share of

    problems, not least dealing with pockets of extremism, but it is ludicrous to generalize about an

    Islamic anger engulfing countries from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific shores. If we focus on a narrower range of Arab countries the Magreb, the Mashreq, the Gulf, the countries in the cock-pit of current struggle and dissent what do we find? In 2002, the Arab Thought

    Foundation commissioned a survey by Zogby International of attitudes in eight countries Egypt,

    Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. They

    questioned 3,800 people and their results confirmed other similar if not identical surveys, for example

    by the Pew Research Centre. What is pretty clear is that, like Americans or Europeans, Arabs are

    most concerned about matters of personal security, fulfillment and satisfaction. Perhaps it is a

    surprise that they do not appear to hate our Western values, and their cultural emanations

    democracy, freedom, education, movies, television. Sad to say their favorite TV program is “Who

    Wants to be a Millionaire?” Other survey evidence underlines this point about the most significant

    values. The Second Arab Human Development Report published in 2003 I shall return to its predecessor later quotes from the World Values Survey which shows that Arabs top the world in

    believing that democracy is the best form of government. They are way ahead of Europeans and

    Americans, and three times as likely to hold this view as East Asians. There is not much sign of a clash of values here. The problem seems to be rather simpler. The Arab

    world does not mind American and European values, but it cannot stand American policies and by

    extension the same policies when embraced or tolerated by Europeans. So the Arab world holds very

    negative opinions of the United States and the United Kingdom (even while holding, according to the

    same survey, positive views about American freedom and democracy). Why is the UK in this pit of

    unpopularity? Partly I suppose because of what we are seen to do, and partly because of what we are

    silent about. I don’t know how widely St. Thomas More is read in Arab lands but “Qui tacet consentire

videtur” is true everywhere. Perhaps it cheers us to discover that France comes best out of these surveys, scoring very positive ratings, as do Japan, Germany and Canada.

    What sort of policies turn Arabs off? Today Iraq would certainly feature high on the list. But in 2002 the issue that stands out from the Zogby survey is, hardly surprisingly, the absence of peace in the

    Middle East. Let me quote what the survey’s authors say; “...[A]fter more than three generations of conflicts, and the betrayal and denial of Palestinian rights, this issue appears to have become a defining one of general Arab concern. It is not a foreign policy issue... rather ... the situation of the

    Palestinians appears to have become a personal matter.” As the recent work of, for example, Richard

    Perle and David Frum has shown, this apparently incontestable point is, for a particular school of

    American thought, a deliberate and alarming blind-spot. The treatment of the Palestinians is one of four areas of policy where the approach we pursue in

    America and Europe could abate or exacerbate Arab hostility, and build rather than burn bridges

    between the West and the whole of the Islamic world. The other three that I want to examine are how

    we engage in the debate on reform in the Arab word; where we go from here in the dreadful situation

    in Iraq; and how we handle Turkey’s aspirations for EU membership. But before I come to my main argument, let me take one short diversion to consider whether they could help us to overcome the

    terrorist threat that has given such a savage twist to these debates. To try to understand the reasons

    for terrorism, and where possible and appropriate to address them, is not to condone the wickedness

    of random murder for political ends.

    Our history from Kenya to Israel to Ireland to South Africa is peppered with examples of terrorism

    which events have elided into politics. Terrorism sometimes has precise political causes and

    objectives the Mau Mau, the Stern gang, the IRA the ANC.

    Sometimes it has had less focused aims for instance, Enrico Malatesta’s “propaganda of the deed,” which tried to draw attention to injustice and destroy the nerve of ruling elites by murdering presidents

    and princes, tsars and kings.

    Today’s terrorism by Islamic groups, able through the advance of technology to shatter civilized order through terrible acts of destruction, seems closer to the anarchists than to the gun-toting politicians,

    for instance the ones I myself know best who were notorious for their ability to carry both a ballot box

    and an Armalite. The ideas that sustain Usama Bin Laden and those who think like him, not all of

    them the members of a spectacularly sophisticated network of evil, but nonetheless fellow-believers in

    a loose confederation of dark prejudices, can hardly be dignified with the description of a

    sophisticated political manifesto. They do not travel far beyond the old graffiti, “Yankee, Go Home.”

    But they do represent a form of political, social and cultural alienation, which we should seek to

    comprehend.

    Joseph Conrad investigated these dark corners in The Secret Agent. Remember these lines:

    He was no man of action; he was not even an orator of torrential eloquence, sweeping the masses

    along in the rushing noise and foam of a great enthusiasm. With a more subtle intention, he took the

    part of an insolent and venomous evoker of sinister impulses which lurk in the blind envy and misery

    of poverty, in all the hopeful and noble illusions of righteous anger, pity and revolt... The way of even

    the most justifiable revolutions is prepared by personal impulses disguised into creeds.

    It is not normal for men and women to want to get up in the morning and strap bombs to themselves

    or to their children and set out to kill and maim. How does a sense of injustice, which so often inspires

    surrender to religious simplicity, come to trigger evil? Why does our own notion of the spread of

    freedom, capitalism and democracy look to others like licentiousness, greed and a new colonialism?

    We should surely try to fathom the answer to these questions, and understand that we can make

    them either more or less soluble. Is it really a surrender to organized evil to assert that there are some

    policies that would demobilize the recruiting sergeants of terrorism? I believe that all four of the hardly

    original issues I have raised fall into this category. First, let me deal with some of the arguments aroused by the American proposal to launch a “Greater

    Middle East Initiative.” Time Magazine cited the UNDP’s Arab Human Development report as the

    most important publication of 2002. The report unleashed a tidal wave of debate across Arab

    countries about the reasons for the region’s comparative backwardness and inadequate performance.

Well over a million copies of the report were downloaded from the Internet, many in Arab countries. Why did a scholarly survey have such an impact?

    The first reason is that its authorship caused surprise and endowed credibility. It was written by Arab

    scholars and policy makers, not well-meaning outsiders. Second, its analysis was captivatingly honest

    and politically bold. How could it be that in terms of economic performance in the last quarter of the th20 century, the only region that did worse than the Arab countries was sub-Saharan Africa? Why had

    personal incomes stagnated through these years? Why had wealth per head in this region fallen from a fifth of the OECD level to a seventh? Why were

    productivity, investment efficiency and foreign direct investment so low? How could the combined

    GDP of all Arab countries be lower than that of a single European country, Spain?

    The answer came in the prescription summarized by the UNDP’s Arab regional director. Arab

    countries needed to embark on rebuilding their societies on the basis of:

    1. Full respect for human rights and human freedoms as the cornerstones of good governance,

    leading to human development;

    2. The complete empowerment of Arab women, taking advantage of all opportunities to build

    their capabilities and to enable them to exercise those capabilities to the full;

    3. The consolidation of knowledge acquisition and its effective utilization.

    Governance, gender, education the Arab world’s own formula for improvement and modernization,

    and a formula too which European partners on the other side of the Mediterranean have been tryi