Five Years After
Five years after the September 11 attack by terrorists
For one, the perpetrator of that attack, Osama bin
Ladin, remains alive, and his Al Qaeda network, while having suffered great
setbacks, is still alive and even growing, while the Taliban, which once gave
it refuge, appears to be regaining ground in
In the face of all of this, more than ever before we see some politicians succumbing to the temptation to see the whole situation as a "war of civilizations" on an epic scale — even likening it to the World War II era battle against fascism or the Cold War struggle against Communism. Perhaps, but it is doubtful that it could turn out that way unless we really want it to. That there are fanatics on the other side who relish such rhetoric, there is no doubt. But we must recognize that extremists exist on our side as well, and that if we allow ourselves to be talked into the same kind of "crusade" versus "jihad" mentality, it only increases the chances we will end up with what we fear most.
Instead, I suggest is what we are seeing is a struggle not between civilizations or even between major religions, but between modernity and a past era that is only slowly losing its grip on the Muslim world. That there are likely to be spasms of resistance to changing times is only to be expected — certainly we have seen them here in the West as well. That modernity, with its secular values, is especially threatening to Muslim sensibilities, with its ideal of a unified religious-political order, there can be no doubt. Yet we forget that such was once also the ideal of the Christian world. Years of bitter rivalry and bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants — not unlike that between Sunnis and Shiites today in Iraq — taught us, the hard way, that something less ideal from a religious perspective but more practical and more respectful of human rights and freedom is the only sane way to go.
So instead of threatening either military or cultural
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