In the early 1990s, the condition of the world was more desirable than ever. The Cold War concluded and the forces of liberal democracy and free market capitalism had prevailed over communism. Intellectuals did not hesitate to bourgeon visions of optimistic forecasts about the future, such as Francis Fukuyama’s daring claim that the world was on the verge of the end of history, where liberal democracy would prevail as the supreme ideology indefinitely.
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Amid this enthusiasm came an ominous warning from Samuel Huntington. Huntington’s thesis was simple: conflict in the post-Cold War order would chiefly occur along cultural lines, primarily focusing on religion. Huntington speculated that the West would find itself pitted against Sinic, Orthodox, and Islamic civilizations, and that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world [would] not be primarily ideological or economic, (Huntington) a fact that contains strong merit today. Therefore, I argue that there is, indeed, a clash of civilizations (COC) in the post-Cold War age. This essay will begin by defining civilization, subsequently present examples to support the argument, and lastly provide a counter argument and conclusion.
Huntington defined a civilization as the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity defined by language, history, religion, customs, institutions, and self-identification of the people (Huntington). He saw a strong correlation between culture and religion, with religion playing the most vital role in bonding a group together within a civilization. Religion is central because society and government is structured by it, and it shapes values at the most fundamental level. Each civilization is hermetically sealed with a traditional set of values and beliefs that exist within it. For instance, Islam maintains a shared religion, language, and ethnicity to form a strong identity. Also, as people define their identity in ethnic and religious terms, they are likely to adapt an us vs. them position between those from a different civilization; hence, resulting in a clash because of major tectonic conflicts. Because of this, conflicts tend to predominantly fall along cultural lines between different civilizations (Sakwa).
Firstly, the most noteworthy example of a COC is the rise of Islamic extremism, which has been the champion security concern for the West. Recently, Islamic gunmen attacked the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo over a sardonic cartoon of Prophet Mohammed, leaving 12 people dead because of a religious-related avenge (Cassidy). Anger and unrest over the cartoon has spread throughout the Islamic world against the West; hundreds of protestors in Gaza tried to overrun a French cultural center and rioters in Niger burned numerous buildings and killed 10. At times like this, there is a propensity to view things in Manichean terms, and to believe, as Huntington postulated, that the event was the result of a COC, with the division of the West on one side and the Islam[ic] bloody borders (Huntington) on the other.
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