Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We're not so different...

When I was an undergrad, in one of numerous classes dealing with Islam and related events and issues, a professor related to me and my classmates a story regarding the voyage of Muslims into the far-East during the medieval era. In the story, Muslim travelers encountered the native people in the general vicinity of modern Mongolia. The travelers attempted to explain their religion/identity. Eventually, the east-central Asian natives looked upon the travelers with recognition and said, "Yes, we know what you are. You are western monotheists," as they held up a Christian statue. To these people, from a completely different ethno-religious-linguistic background, Christians and Muslims seemed enormously similar. Now, roughly a thousand years later, have things changed that much, or are the "West" (Christian and post-Christian Europe and its former colonies) and "Dar al'Islam" really that different? Are they so different that a cultural war is inevitable, as many seem to be saying, and as more seem to be hell-bent on ensuring? Or are the peoples of the "Muslim world" and "the West" really cultural cousins, closer to each other than all other peoples on Earth?

I make these statements, and relate this story - I wish I could clarify/verify it, but that's not going to happen quickly - because I think they can do something to combat the Islamophobic notion of Islam as inherently separate and other and perhaps help move some people away from the viewpoint that cutural differences will be the foundation of, and indeed necessitate, future conflicts - See Samuel Huntington's pulp poly-sci bestseller "The Clash of Civilizations for proof of the widespread acceptance of this viewpoint. Not, of course, that cultural differences can't lead to conflict. I just think that cultural differences, especially between groups such as the so-called "West" and the "Islamic World" aren't as severe as some may think, and that they do not necessarily necessitate conflict. Overall, I think culture is far more goddamn fluid than most people give it credit for - just take a look at medieval Andalusia for evidence of this. Dwelling on cultural differences - a favorite pastime of warmongers throughout the world - doesn't do a damn thing to move world culture forward and get us all out of this multi-millenia-long mire that I'll dub "the Eon of War." The world is not comprised of Kulturerdteile, but rather of billions of individuals with a myriad of identities comprising a wide and gently-gradiated spectrum.

Ultimately, I don't think my cultural differences from anybody necessitate war. If enough people pull their heads out of their proverbial asses and come to agree with me... we might finally be able to move forward.


Post a Comment

<< Home