The One World Illusion

Last month Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament, and author of "Nomad: From Islam to America—A Personal Journey through the Clash of Civilizations," wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal titled How to Win the Clash of Civilizations. In the article Ms Ali describes the clash in this fashion:
What do the controversies around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France have in common? All four are framed in the Western media as issues of religious tolerance. But that is not their essence. Fundamentally, they are all symptoms of what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington called the "Clash of Civilizations," particularly the clash between Islam and the West.

Huntington's argument is worth summarizing briefly for those who now only remember his striking title. The essential building block of the post-Cold War world, he wrote, are seven or eight historical civilizations of which the Western, the Muslim and the Confucian are the most important.

The balance of power among these civilizations, he argued, is shifting. The West is declining in relative power, Islam is exploding demographically, and Asian civilizations—especially China—are economically ascendant. Huntington also said that a civilization-based world order is emerging in which states that share cultural affinities will cooperate with each other and group themselves around the leading states of their civilization.
Ms Ali goes on to speak of the current world situation:
President Obama, in his own way, is a One Worlder. In his 2009 Cairo speech, he called for a new era of understanding between America and the Muslim world. It would be a world based on "mutual respect, and . . . upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles."

The president's hope was that moderate Muslims would eagerly accept this invitation to be friends. The extremist minority—nonstate actors like al Qaeda—could then be picked off with drones.

Of course, this hasn't gone according to plan. And a perfect illustration of the futility of this approach, and the superiority of the Huntingtonian model, is the recent behavior of Turkey.

According to the One World view, Turkey is an island of Muslim moderation in a sea of extremism. Successive American presidents have urged the EU to accept Turkey as a member on this assumption. But the illusion of Turkey as the West's moderate friend in the Muslim world has been shattered.
I encourage you to read the whole article where Ms Ali describes the West's failed perception of Turkey and how "moderate" Turkey has allied itself with more extremist Muslim nations. Here is the way that she ends the piece:
Our civilization is not indestructible: It needs to be actively defended. This was perhaps Huntington's most important insight. The first step towards winning this clash of civilizations is to understand how the other side is waging it—and to rid ourselves of the One World illusion.
That phrase "One World illusion" caught my attention. For much of my early religious life I heard a lot from fundamentalist pulpits about the evils of the Babylonian "One World Order", that some see described in the biblical book of Revelation. This article and the general cultural patterns I see these days make we wonder if this "One World" interpretation is based on anything substantial or if it is more based on a Western dominated paradigm of the world.

For years I have been aware that there are distinctions in Eastern and Western thought and their approach to the world. The addition of Islam as a third approach is an interesting one because of it's influences on both Eastern and Western civilization. We do seem to be witnessing somewhat of a clash of civilizations these days that speaks to the illusion of a planet united under some sort of new world order

How do you see this phenomenon? Will we one day witness a one world civilization?


  1. Interesting stuff. Personally, I live in a town with about 32,000 residents. Given the bickering that goes on with seemingly minor issues, I would guess we are at least a few generations away from a "One World Town"... don't expect to see a One World Civilization anytime soon -- well, at least not in this world.

  2. It's something we can...Imagine, but to be honest, if we eliminated all the things we kill each other over, we would just find new things.

    I think Sting said it best back during the cold war: "I hope the Russians love their children too."

    My hope is that as the world becomes smaller and we are able to communicate more rapidly the barriers between us will become less solid and at least some people in each group will be able to move beyond the hatred, bigotry, and violence.

  3. No. We are too diverse. Sometimes our strength is in our differences, not our sameness. The issue is, Can we live in peace in a multi-cultural world?


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