Conflict Between Western And Islamic Civilizations Cultural Studies Essay

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Introduction

Historically, the conflict between western and Islamic civilizations persisted and 9/11 has widened the gap between western civilization and Islamic world, although the gap could have been closed due to multiculturalism that emerged in the late 20th century. The terror attacks on 9/11 caused severe casualties not only to the US but also to the relationships between average Americans and Arab Americans as well as they have changed the attitude of Americans to the Islamic world at large. Today, Americans tends to associate Arab Americans and the Arab world with terrorism and radical Islamism, which has nothing in common with the real situation in the Arab American community and the Arab world. Hence, the terror attacks on 9/11 have changed relationships between Americans and representatives of the Arab world both in and outside the US and this change has widen the gap between American culture and Arab/Islamic culture. In fact, the terror attacks on 9/11 gave new direction in the development of Orientalism, which is now grounded on the juxtaposition of West and East and, as Said Edward states, shapes the cultural apparatus of Orientalism as a concept associated with aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge. Orientalism in the post-9/11 America is the view on Arab Americans and Arab world as hostile, aggressive, and uncontrollable.

The relationship between West and East was traditionally the subject to heat debates between philosophers, sociologists, politicians, and other specialists, dealing with relationships between the two civilizations. In this regard, the contemporary relationships between West and East is one of the primary concerns of Said Edward, who develops the concept of Orientalism, which he believes to be a key to understanding of the East, Islamic world and the relationship between West and East. At this point, the question of ethnical prejudice and stereotypes has always been one of the most sharp in contemporary world. The Arabians focused severe mistreatment and misunderstanding. Historically, the conflict between western and Islamic civilizations persisted and 9/11 has widen the gap between western civilization and Islamic world, although the gap could have been closed due to multiculturalism that emerged in the late 20th century. The terror attacks on 9/11 caused severe casualties not only to the US but also to the relationships between average Americans and Arab Americans as well as they have changed the attitude of Americans to the Islamic world at large. Today, Americans tends to associate Arab Americans and the Arab world with terrorism and radical Islamism, which has nothing in common with the real situation in the Arab American community and the Arab world. Hence, the terror attacks on 9/11 have changed relationships between Americans and representatives of the Arab world both in and outside the US and this change has widen the gap between American culture and Arab/Islamic culture. In fact, the terror attacks on 9/11 gave new direction in the development of Orientalism, which is now grounded on the juxtaposition of West and East and, as Said Edward states, shapes the cultural apparatus of Orientalism as a concept associated with aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge. Orientalim in the post-9/11 America is the view on Arab Americans and Arab world as hostile, aggressive, and uncontrollable.

Edward Said was the one who deeply investigated this issue and tried to reveal what was the reason of this false perception and why do Western nations could not perceive the Arabian nation in different way. His outstanding work Orientalism, which was released in far 1978 perfectly explains and investigates the relations between the East and the West, as well the history of these prejudice formation. The author called Orientalism, the political doctrine, which mistreat, misunderstand, misinterpret and oppress the Orient (or the East), which is traditionally was referred to as weaker than the West: "My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient's difference with its weakness… As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge" (Said Edward, p. 204). The author investigated in detail the relations between the Eastern and the Western nations, which actually caused such a treatment and made even the academic world of the West is confident about their superiority upon the East, which causes such relations. Personally Said was confident that Orientalism did not deal with misinterpretation: "My whole point about this system is not that it is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence - in which I do not for a moment believe - but that it operates as representations usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economic setting" (Said Edward, p. 273). Said is roughly against the spread of internationalized ideas of Orientalism spread and practiced by the Arab elite and having their roots in the UK and the United States. It would be important to note that the Arab nations has their own unique culture, which is actually in some parts is really in the confrontation with so called Orientalism imagery, created by the West. The author considers that this has not only negative impact on the relations between the nations, but on the nations themselves, in particular the Arab nation: "The four elements I have described - expansion, historical confrontation, sympathy, classification - are the currents in eighteenth-century thought on whose presence the specific intellectual and institutional structures of modern Orientalism depend" (Said Edward, p. 120).

The oppression of the Eastern nations, Arab nation in particular started far earlier than the event 9/11 occurred and observing the present day situation from the different perspectives it would be essential to note that the splash of this confrontation was due the event of 9/11, which stressed the Arab and the Western world and sharpened the confrontation.

Before 9/11 the relationships between West and East has deteriorated consistently because western countries, headed by the US, oppressed the Arab world. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the development of the international relations before 9/11 was characterized by the growing tension between the US and its allies, on the one hand, and Arab and Muslim countries, on the other. As the matter of fact, terror attacks on 9/11 were, to a significant extent, determined by the negligence in relation to cultural norms and traditions as well as the socioeconomic situation and political development of Eastern countries. In this respect, Said Edward stands on the ground that the relationship between West and East were misbalanced. On extrapolating this idea on the international relations before and after 9/11, it is possible to estimate that 9/11 was an attempt of the Eastern, Islamic world to shatter the hegemony of the West in socioeconomic, political and cultural development of the world. In fact, Western countries headed by the US strived to domination in the Middle East as well as in other regions, which traditionally attached to Islamic norms and traditions. In fact, the international relations before and after 9/11 were characterized by the dominating view on the international relations as the juxtaposition between West and the rest of the world. In this regard, Said Edward argues that "the basic paradigm of West versus the rest (the cold war opposition reformulated) remained untouched, and this is what has persisted, often insidiously and implicitly, in discussion since the terrible events of September 11" (Said Edward, 118). What is meant here is the fact that the West contrasts itself to the rest of the world and people living in the West failed to view the world as a heterogeneous entity. Instead, they were accustomed to view the world from the western standpoint and they neglected other, alternative views. To put it in simple words, westerners had little idea of the East and they did not attempt to understand the East. Instead, they preferred to juxtapose to the East, develop confrontation against the East, and challenge the East just because it was different and it was not like the West. In this regard, Said Edward denies views of other specialists, who internalize problems of international relations. To put it more precisely, he is very skeptical about the idea that terror attacks occurred because of the internal development of Western and Eastern civilizations, which developed their own ideology, values and so on and eventually ended up in a clash, whereas 9/11 was just the mere manifestation of this clash between civilizations. In this respect, Said Edwards rejects views of researchers, who have "much time to spare for the internal dynamics and plurality of every civilization, or for the fact that the major contest in most modern cultures concerns the definition or interpretation of each culture, or for the unattractive possibility that a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance is involved in presuming to speak for a whole religion or civilization. No, the West is the West, and Islam Islam." (Said Edward, 118). He stands on the ground that the lack of mutual understanding and desire from the part of the West to understand the East, namely Islam and Muslim world led to the ongoing confrontation and the 9/11 terror attacks.

At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that before 9/11 the Muslim world experienced really hard times. The question of Western superiority was razed again. It goes without saying that Edward Said as the son of his nation could not stay indifferent to such a mistreatment and raised a discussion, trying to put things on their appropriate but never suitable places as the representatives of Western culture often do: "Even the normally sober British weekly The Economist, in its issue of September 22-28, can't resist reaching for the vast generalization, praising Huntington extravagantly for his "cruel and sweeping, but nonetheless acute" observations about Islam. "Today," the journal says with unseemly solemnity, Huntington writes that "the world's billion or so Muslims are 'convinced of the superiority of their culture, and obsessed with the inferiority of their power." Did he canvas 100 Indonesians, 200 Moroccans, 500 Egyptians and fifty Bosnians? Even if he did, what sort of sample is that? Uncountable are the editorials in every American and European newspaper and magazine of note adding to this vocabulary of gigantism and apocalypse, each use of which is plainly designed not to edify but to inflame the reader's indignant passion as a member of the "West," and what we need to do" (Said Edward, 2001).

The typical example of prejudice existing in the western society against Muslims and Islamic world can be revealed easily in the works written by Said Edward: "This is the problem with unedifying labels like Islam and the West: They mislead and confuse the mind, which is trying to make sense of a disorderly reality that won't be pigeonholed or strapped down as easily as all that. I remember interrupting a man who, after a lecture I had given at a West Bank university in 1994, rose from the audience and started to attack my ideas as "Western," as opposed to the strict Islamic ones he espoused. "Why are you wearing a suit and tie?" was the first retort that came to mind. "They're Western too." He sat down with an embarrassed smile on his face, but I recalled the incident when information on the September 11 terrorists started to come in: how they had mastered all the technical details required to inflict their homicidal evil on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the aircraft they had commandeered. Where does one draw the line between "Western" technology and, as Berlusconi declared, "Islam's" inability to be a part of "modernity"? " (Said Edward, 2001). These social boundaries raise a number of issues and the intensive desire to overcome them could not really help. That is why it is not actually surprising that Edward Said devoted so huge attention to the national and ethnic identity and defeated the facts that are the roots and the same time illustrative examples of these prejudice. Within this short passage the author described typical situation, when he was criticized by a so called pro-Western individual.

Said Edward stands on the ground that representatives of the Islamic world face these prejudice from the very beginning till the end of their lives. The facts Edward Said uses for his research perfectly identify that the division on East and West is really lack of proved and well grounded pure facts. The only grounds for such an attitude and sharpening the destructive Orientalism are prejudice and stereotypes, which are actually nothing more than a myth.

Taking into consideration the poll data it would be important to focus on the fact that the poll held Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University revealed that two thirds of the Americans consider that the government structures were well aware about the threat and had certain data, which could assist prevention of the terroristic acts but did not used this information. It goes without saying that two thirds of the Americans who support such point of view are potentially disregard Orientalism based prejudice and stereotypes dealing with the representative of the Arab nations, hence there is left one third, which would not stay indifferent. Edward Said was the one, who considered the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq to be illegal, as this act is not better than terrorist attack and may be even worse, as it violates the norms of international law dealing with sovereignty of the state: "The suicide bombing phenomenon has appeared with all its hideous damage, none more lurid and apocalyptic of course than the events of September 11 2001 and their aftermath in the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. As I write these lines, the illegal occupation of Iraq by Britain and the United States proceeds. Its aftermath is truly awful to contemplate. This is all part of what is supposed to be a clash of civilisations, unending, implacable, irremediable. Nevertheless, I think not. I wish I could say that general understanding of the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam in the US has improved, butalas, it really hasn't. For all kinds of reasons, the situation in Europe seems to be considerably better" (Said Edward, p. 3). The fact is that the representatives of Western civilizations sometimes act even worse than terrorists. American and British Armies killed thousands of civilian Arabians, children, they violated the rights of people and were even condemned by the international society.

Therefore, Said Edward is right, when he argues that the lack of understanding of the Islamic world provoked the confrontation, whereas the traditional opposition the West v. the rest of the world, could hardly lead to any other outcome but the bloody clash between the West and the East, which occurred on 9/11. In fact, Eastern, Islamic countries attempted to oppose to the growing pressure from the part of the US. Their vision of international relations differed consistently from the vision imposed on the world by the US. For instance, Islamic countries had a different view on the solution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Eastern countries, such as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan have chosen their own way of development, which was different from the western way of development. In such a way, Eastern countries have different position in international policies but the West, headed by the US, ignored the position of Eastern countries.

At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the US was and still is the only superpower in the world and Eastern countries could not oppose or resist to the US, even if they united their efforts. They could not confront the only superpower in the open struggle. Nevertheless, Eastern countries grew more and more dissatisfied with the global policies and international relations imposed on them by the US. Hence, the opposition to the West grew stronger and led to the emergence of terrorist movements, such as Al Qaeda, which was actually responsible for terror attacks on 9/11. To put it more precisely, as Said Edward argued, the Islamic world stayed to be the Islamic world with its traditions, norms and beliefs. Representatives of this world, which was different from the West, were ready to defend their views and beliefs by all possible means. The hegemony of the US as the only superpower gave them little options to choose the method of struggle and the terrorism became the major and, probably, the most effective method of struggle of the East against the oppression and domination of the West. Al Qaeda had proved to be quite successful recruiting thousands of members worldwide. Remarkably, this terrorist organization focused on the most radicalized parts of the world, such as Afghanistan or Pakistan, as well as Iran and Indonesia where radical Islamist ideas were popular and still relevant. Al Qaeda had a solid ideological basis in these countries and could recruit new members easily, whereas the desperate socioeconomic position of the population in these countries increased the popularity of Al Qaeda. At the same time, the main reason for the popularity of Al Qaeda among the population of Eastern countries. To put it more precisely, they were ready to support the power, which they believed to stand for their traditions, culture, interests and needs. In such a context, Al Qaeda positioned itself as the organization that struggles for the values of Islam and protects Muslims from the oppression from the part of the US and other non-Islamic countries of the world. In other words, Al Qaeda personified the power that challenged the US and stood for Muslims. Hence, many people supported and still support this organization. At this point, it is possible to refer to the experience of other terrorist organization, such as Hezbollah, which has gained the public support in Lebanon because, even though this organization used terror attacks as the main method of its struggle, this organization proved to be the only power capable to resist effectively to Israel. The same trend can be traced in regard to Al Qaeda, which positioned itself as the only power capable to resist to the hegemony of the US and which was eager to support the Islamic world and Muslims worldwide.

After 9/11 the West viewed Al Qaeda as the major threat and terrorist organization, whereas the East viewed Al Qaeda as a powerful organization that challenged the West and attempted to preserve the traditional values of the East and protect interests of Muslims. However, such an effect of the terror attacks conducted by 9/11 because, as Said Edward said the West is the West, and Islam is Islam, i.e. each civilization views the terror attacks from its own standpoint and, therefore, the attitude of people in the West and in the East to 9/11 differs.

In the end it would be essential to focus on the fact that the Arab nations have to face severe difficulties in their everyday life and the grounds for these difficulties are Orientalism based prejudice and stereotypes, which impact the everyday life as Western as well as Eastern society. Edward Said was the one who valued national and ethnic identity very high, but the same time he was the one who stressed that the national diversity could never became a reasonable ground for interracial misunderstanding and development of prejudice. He always stated on the fact of equality between the representatives of all the nations in the world. A number of people share the same ideas on Orientalism, which is based on the centuries developed prejudice and stereotypes. International relations revealed the hegemony of the US and western civilization. In such a situation, terror attacks on 9/11 became the only effective response to the oppression of Eastern countries by the US. Al Qaeda became a symbol of the struggle for independence and traditional values in the East, and the enemy number one in the West. In such a way, the West carries on its ideology of the opposition of the West vs. the rest of the world.

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