Samuel Huntington: Academic claims the clash of civilizations is a dangerous myth





[ Eboo Patel is the Founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core and the author of Acts of Faith.]

The first assignment I give the graduate students in my class at Chicago Theological Seminary is Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations. I figure it is only fair for them to do a thorough reading of perhaps the most prevalent theory of our times.

And then I spend the rest of the semester trying to dig out of that hole.

It’s not that my students – most of them bright, progressive, hopeful people of faith – want to believe that there is a clash of civilizations. It is that Huntington has created a framework that facts seem to fit in. And as our media continues to provide a microphone and a stage for religious totalitarians, the Huntington thesis that civilizations are inherently at odds with each other acquires the force of inevitability, which makes it the single most dangerous idea of our time.

So I am continually looking for resources that are as wide-ranging as Huntington’s book - that pull together history, politics, religious scholarship and personal narrative into a coherent framework which can counter the force of inevitability with the power of possibility.

I have found one such resource in Akbar Ahmed’s important new book, Journey Into Islam.

Professor Ahmed’s personal range is remarkable. He is a devoted Muslim who was trained as an anthropologist at the University of London, served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, lived for extended periods of time on three continents, and seems comfortable in situations that range from tribal rituals to state dinners. He brings every inch of his access, erudition and aplomb to this book.

He also brings a deep and nuanced understanding of Islam, something shockingly absent from most of the current books on Muslims in the modern world. For Ahmed, Islam is not just a handful of sacred verses or a particular political movement, but a broad tradition inspired by a religious ethos that includes poetry, philosophy, prayer, politics and every other aspect of human life. This breadth of understanding is distilled into a fascinating three-part typology of Muslim leadership – the mystical, the modernist and the fundamentalist. Each of these archetypes is rooted within the tradition and has had various incarnations throughout Muslim history....

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Lorraine Paul - 6/7/2007

Huntingdon's book is so ludicrous it doesn't deserve a rebuttal.

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