Bible Commentator


Rabbi Moshe Reiss


‘Democracy like religion can be seen as an imperialistic venture if not home grown. The attempt to convert people is always an act of intolerance.’

‘Islam is the best, but we Muslims are not the best.  The West is neither corrupted nor degenerate. It is strong, well-educated, and organized. Their schools are better than ours. Their cities are cleaner than ours. The level of respect for human rights in the West is higher, and the care for the poor and less capable is better organized. Westerners are usually responsible and accurate in their words. Instead of hating the West, let us proclaim cooperation instead of confrontation.’ (Alija Izetbegovic, President of Bosnia) 


The West in Arabic is ‘Gharb – a place of darkness and of the incomprehensible; of the strange and the foreign. It is the place of the setting sun. 1 ‘Al-hurriyya’ freedom is connected in Arabic to ‘jahiliyya’ anarchy (or ignorance). Only for the Sufi’s is ‘hurriyya’ connected to submission to God.

‘The coming millennium will go down in world history as a struggle between Orient and Occident, between the church and Islam, between the Germanic peoples and the Arabs,’ stated Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) in 1920.

The term ‘Clash of Civilizations’ was coined by Bernard Lewis in a 1990 article in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine. 2 (Hichem Djait coined the term ‘confrontation of civilizations’ referring to Europe and Islam  in 1978 in his ‘L’Europe et l’Islam’. 3)

It became known through an article in Journal of Foreign Affairs written by Samuel Huntington in 1993 4 and later in a book of the same name. 5  The term meant different things to Lewis and Huntington. Lewis was referring to the West and Islam; Huntington created a thesis about conflicts between civilizations. Huntington states that humans require identity and acquire it through there enemies.

Without the Cold War and the ideology of Communism, the new enemy would be based on religion or culture. He claims that Muslims themselves are convinced of the superiority of their religion and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. They have a propensity for violence. In this he is similar to Lewis’ analysis.

The dominant type of confrontation in the world during the several hundred years leading up to the 19th century was that which occurred between major powers within the Western civilization, and then came the ideological confrontation of the 20th century, which has now, according to Huntington shifted to the confrontation between civilizations in the post-Cold War era (the 21st century). The identities and loyalties of people have been shifting from state and ideology to civilization, defined as the ‘broadest cultural entity.’ As a result, the world order began changing at its foundations, and, for the first time in the history of mankind, one is witnessing the emergence of a new world of multipolar and multi-civilizational global politics, each civilization with its own member countries clustered around a core state functioning as an independent pole. In this context, Western civilization is just one of the major civilizations, and, since matured civilizations strongly tend to reject the influence of others, it is not likely to become a universal civilization. Huntington’s prescription is for the countries of the Western Christianity civilization to  suspend their fruitless and dangerous effort of propagating their civilization to the rest of the world, and join forces to defend themselves against the challenges posed by other civilizations. With respect to the conflicts arising within each civilizational sphere, the best thing for the West to do is to leave everything to its core state' control and management.

Huntington defines ‘a civilization as a cultural entity. . . . It is defined both by common objective elements, such as language, history, religion, customs, institutions, and by the subjective self-identification of people’. 6

According to Huntington civilizations differ by history, language, culture, tradition and most importantly religion. He listed eight current civilizations: Western Christian (Europe and the U.S); Confucianism (China); Japanese; Islamic; Hindu (India); Slavic-Orthodox (Russia – Balkans); Latin America and African. Only western Christianity (10 -15% of the world’s population) and Islam (15% of the world’s population) - have a universal claim. The West as a result of the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment became secularized, but retained its universalist claim; Islam did not secularize; thus the Clash. Four of the civilizations are religions (Confucianism, Islamic, Hindu and Slavic Orthodox), and three are geographic (Japanese, Latin America and Africa).  The West is defined as the United States and Europe.  Recently some have argued that the United States  and Europe are themselves divided. Robert Kagan stated ‘it is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. . . The day could come . . . when Americans will no more heed the pronouncements of ASEAN [Association of Southeastern Asian Nations] or the Andean pact’. 7 Is this a strategic difference or a tactic one.

Timothy Garton Ash, Director of European Studies Center at Oxford University writes in "Is Europe better than America" offers two possible answers: (a) Europe and America are two "strongly contrasting civilizations," and each thinks it is better; or (b) America and most of Europe belong to a wider family of liberal democracies, and one is better in some ways, the other in other ways. He believes the latter to be true.

Huntington sees an inevitable civilizational conflict. These civilizations have different views ‘between God and man, the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority and equality and hierarchy’. 8 As a result of modernization the global village has allowed for the knowledge and awareness of other views. Economic modernization and regionalism are increasing. Cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones.

There have been centuries old conflicts between Slavic-Orthodox Russia and China, despite sharing a communist ideology for half a century. Russia has given up its communist ideology and China has depleted it almost to non-existence. The conflict between China and Russia is currently almost completely economic. Japan, a traditional enemy  of China and Russia compete only economically. In the Hindu-Islam conflict India acts as a secular state (despite its own significant number of religious fanatics) and the clash has much to do with Kashmir and oppression of minority Muslims. This was equally true in the United States with oppression of African Americans until the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. It is not a clash of civilizations. There may be a potential conflict between Confucian China and Muslims in China. China has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, perhaps 100-150 million persons with a population of one and half billion (less than 10%). 9 Confucian China as well as Islamic China are both anti-individualist societies; both are culturally communal societies. Confucian China is officially secular, in fact atheist and Muslims in China are probably as religious as Muslims elsewhere. China not being democratic and oppressive of minorities (note Tibet) may have conflict between its secular modernizing objectives and Islam. It should be noted that Huntington sees an alliance between China and Islam as threatening the West. He has a section entitled ‘The Confucian-Islamic connection’.

Huntington has recently an article the Foreign Policy Magazine entitled ‘The Hispanic Challenge’. 10 In this article he is concerned about the ‘hispanization’ of the United States. He asks ‘Will the United States remain a country with a single national language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture? By ignoring this question, Americans acquiesce to their eventual transformation into two peoples with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanic) and two languages (English and Spanish).’ He compares Mexican immigration to previous immigrations. ‘The experience and lessons of past immigration have little relevance to understanding its dynamics and consequences. Mexican immigration differs from past immigration and most other contemporary immigration due to a combination of six factors: contiguity, scale, illegality, regional concentration, persistence, and historical presence.’

In this article he can see Huntington’s concern with culture. ‘It is quite different to argue that Americans should know a non-English language in order to communicate with their fellow citizens. Yet that is what the Spanish-language advocates have in mind. Strengthened by the growth of Hispanic numbers and influence, Hispanic leaders are actively seeking to transform the United States into a bilingual society. “English is not enough,” argues Osvaldo Soto, president of the Spanish American League Against Discrimination. “We don't want a monolingual society.” Similarly, Duke University literature professor (and Chilean immigrant) Ariel Dorfman asks, “Will this country speak two languages or merely one?” And his answer, (as opposed to Huntington) is that it should speak two.’

Huntington notes that ‘If this trend continues, the cultural division between Hispanics and Anglos could replace the racial division between blacks and whites as the most serious cleavage in U.S. society.’ He concludes his article with the following:

‘Such a transformation would not only revolutionize the United States, but it would also have serious consequences for Hispanics, who will be in the United States but not of it. Sosa ends his book, The Americano Dream, with encouragement for aspiring Hispanic entrepreneurs. “The Americano dream?” he asks. “It exists, it is realistic, and it is there for all of us to share.” Sosa is wrong. There is no Americano dream. There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English.’

He appears to be concerned that by the end of the third American century (2076)

The majority of people in the united states will be people of color (African, Asians and Hispanics). He may very well be right. Is it reasonable to be concerned that his previous article ‘The Clash of Civilization’ involves similar concerns?

In the earlier article in a section entitled ‘The West Versus The Rest’ Huntington discusses the United Nation Security Council and its Western domination and the International Monetary Fund but the term ‘globalization’ never appears in his long article. He discusses the concept of modernization as a basic characteristic of industrial societies in three brief sentences. He uses modernity once and modern three times. He never discusses secularization; he uses the term secular three times and once secularization.

Globalization and its connection to modernization (and less to secularism) are very significant issues to the Global world. Huntington also does not note that Democracy as system that governs nation-states has grown in the last twenty years significantly in eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. To ignore the concepts of Democracy, Secularization, Modernism and Globalization in an article discussing the shaping of future world political trends seems a major lapse.

In a review of Huntington’s book David Skidmore notes that ‘Huntington suggests that modernization, interdependence and democratization lead not to convergence and increased cooperation among nations but to growing divergence and civilizational conflict’.11 Skidmore may be right but Huntington does not discuss these issues in the earlier article. In the book were Huntington does discuss modernization he seems to believe it does not affect culture and values.

Finally in the middle of his article he notes that ‘conflict along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilizations has been going on for 1300 years’, he calls it a Clash of Civilizations’. For the first nine hundred years Islam succeeded against the west. In the last 500 years it has failed and in the past one hundred years failed in its own core territory – the Middle East.  David Brooks 12 coined the term Bourgeoisophobia as a hatred of success. It is a hatred held by people who feel they are spiritually superior but who find themselves economically, politically, and socially outranked. They conclude that the world is diseased, that it rewards the wrong values, the wrong people, and the wrong abilities. Freud called this denial. Theologians of the Manichean heresy suggested the successful  are evil and the poor are spiritually pristine. Calvin suggested the opposite theology. 13

Islam as a civilization is under siege. It took more than forty years from George F. Kennon’s famous article in the Journal of Foreign Affairs (1947) on the Cold War and his prescription of a containment policy until it succeeded. It may take forty years from 9/11 until we discover the truth or falseness of Huntington’s prescription and the  success or failure of the war against Islamic terror.

The Islamic world stretches from North Africa and the Middle East to Asia. While they have a common religion basis significant differences exist in language, geography, ethnicity, history and tradition. These are certainly not unimportant. There is no monolithic Islamic world. Turkey is very different than Saudi Arabia and both differ from Pakistan. Nigeria has little in common with Indonesia. In the past fifty years the standard of living has increased almost across the globe with the relative exceptions of Africa and the Middle East. The Middle East is also the only region of the world where Democracy has not increased in the last half century.

Is Huntington’s conflict better described as a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ or a conflict between  modernity and medievalism especially in the Arab Mid East. In a letter left by Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who shot the Pope on May 13, 1981, he stated ‘I have decided to kill John Paul II, supreme commander of the Crusades’. Osama bin Laden in a videotape  a month after the attack on the twin towers  spoke of the ‘humiliation and disgrace’ Islam had suffered for ‘more than eighty years.’ He was referring to the end of the Caliphate in 1922. Do anyone aside from religious fanatics wish to remain in a medieval society?

Many legitimate responses and questions have been posed to the Huntington thesis. 14 Turkey has rejected Mecca and is working hard to join the EU. Where does central Asia belong? Is Mexico Latin American or part of the North American Free Trade Zone? Is Russian part of the West or the Leader of the Slavic Orthodox civilization? Japan and China seem to have the desire to join the modernized and globalized sectors of the world.. Muslims consider that the West’s form of Christianity and Slavic form of Christianity Orthodoxy the same – both now and before during the Cold War. Both deride from the legacies of Greece, Rome, Christianity, Humanism, the Enlightenment and Scientism. They listen to the same music, see the same art, read the same books, their men wear pants, their women wear short skirts and uncovered hair and sit on chairs. They argue over freedom, equality and democracy – even if differently defined – none of  this would have any relevance to Radical Islam.

Huntington wrote his thesis eight years before 9/11. If we ignore Huntington’s theses about conflict between civilizations and concentrate on his views about the conflict between the West and Islam, certainly after 9/11, Huntington’s thesis may appear to have some truth. When he said ‘the underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism . It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture’.

Is the West a civilization? If so what is the Western Civilization? The West, including the United States and the European Union may be better described as foremost the paradigm of the modern industrial society. Any definition of the West must include Participatory Democracy, Rule of Law, Human Rights, Free Market Economics, Individualism, and Separation of Church and State .

Japan clearly is part of this modern industrial society, but it has not included  individualism as a requirement. The ten new central and eastern European countries joining the E.U. do not all have these characteristics, but have committed to most, but not all of them in the future. Russia is becoming a modern industrial society with some of characteristics: Its participatory democracy, rule of law and human rights are all limited.

India is growing into the modern industrial society. It is the most populace democracy in the world and has adopted most of the characteristics we have defined as required for a modern industrial society but has problems with Human Rights relative to Muslims in this predominantly Hindu country. China, the most populace country in the World has adopted the Market Economy and Private Property but does not have participatory democracy, nor human rights,  nor has it accepted the societal concept of individualism. Singapore, Taiwan,  South Korea and Muslim Malaysia have succeeded as modern industrial societies without adopting Individualism and have limited Human Rights. Turkey, a Muslim country attempting to join the E.U. has to a certain degree all of the characteristics.

Globalization is a difficult concept to define.  Can one be Modern and not Secular?  Secularism is a value system which may oppose Islam as it once opposed Christianity. Once Christian theology was opposed to secular belief systems; during those days it was believed in an earth-centered universe and was theologically anti-Semitic. Today it is not anti-Semitic and in fact believes in ecumenism. However at least the Catholic Church still believes in chaste male priests, is against abortion and birth control and still retains the concept of papal infallibility. These are clearly opposed to secularism.

Is the conflict a clash between civilizations – The East and the West – or is the Islamic world being, as Ajami Fouad stated ‘dragged into the outside world, leaving them ambivalent, confused - . . . [about] the attraction of lifestyles freer than their own draw[ing] people into the network of the world economy, into currents of world thought and culture. . . . And is this ambivalence, this anguish and hesitation, that is missing from much of what has lately been offered us by way of insight into the agony of the Muslim world. We have been paying attention to doctrine, to the display of militancy, and missing the hesitations and doubts of so many who continue to tell us, and above all, to tell themselves, that they wish to break with the codes of the modern world, to leave its techniques and possibilities behind.’  Ajami's conclusion is that the West is ‘facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less that a clash of civilizations – the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both’.15

Is Islam ‘secular resistant’ or resistant to the West? One could argue that Catholicism only left medieval beliefs with the election of Pope John XXIII and the adoption of Vatican I in the mid 1960’. Islamic extremists have been more successful at preaching hatred and intolerance than have Islamic moderates. The moderates whether Nasserite, Socialist or nationalists have failed. Major events in the near future that could change things if the reformists in Iran defeat the clerics, the successful democratization of Iraq (and neighborhood ramifications) or a settlement of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Islam is not incompatible with the West or Democracy. Islamism – defined as Radical Islam or Fundamentalist Islam is incompatible with the West as defined above.

One can equally ask is Islam ‘modernity resistant’? Iran’s Khomeini was anti-modern because modernity interpreted the Qur’an differently than his singular theology. Most Sunni’s defined Khomeini’s theology as heresy. Saudi Arabian Sunni theology is also a singular theology but different than Khomeini’s.  The Saudi Arabian theology is rejected by other Middle Eastern governments such as Jordan or Morocco. And what are we to do with the secular governments of Syria and Egypt who oppose modernity because it favors democracy? Muhammad Shahrur, is a Syrian widely published in Syria and Egypt (but not in Saudi Arabia) who has written several books calling for contemporary interpretations of the Qur’an. 16


Samuel Huntington’s thesis is often believed to confirm that Islam is a threat to the West.  Is that true? The main event that made that appear to be true is the Iranian revolution. As we will discuss if there is an Islamic threat it is Arab and Sunni. Iran is not an Arab country. Iran is not a Sunni country. It is from a fringe sect of the Shi’ite sect of Islam; the majority of Shi’ites are ‘Quietists.  There is an historic conflict between Christianity and Islam.  There have been many century long historical conflicts in history: France and Germany, Turkey and Christian Europe, Slavs and non-Slav Europe and Christians and Jews.  France and Germany are after hundreds of years now are close friends. Turkey, then Islam now secular wishes little more than to join the European Common Market, currently an exclusive Christian club.  The Slav conflict ended largely with the end of the Cold War.  Christianity conflicted with Judaism from the beginning as a Jewish sect. This conflict continued for almost two millennia. In the last forty years this has changed; Christianity which adopted the Hebrew Bible has agreed that the covenant between God and Judaism remains valid forever.  Thus historical conflict ever bitter ones such as between Jews and Christians can change.

By the middle of the seventh century Arab Islam was successful as a political and cultural cohesive empire. It did not attempt to convert the natives to the religion of Islam. As it expanded to becoming the largest empire the world had ever seen (tenth to twelfth century) the culture of Arabism (and its new founded materialism) remained and its intellectual achievements were world renown (Europe was in its own defined dark ages) but it was no longer politically cohesive. (Edward Gibbons noted that if Charles Martel had not defeated the Muslims at the Battle of Tours in 732 Oxford University would be teaching Christianity as it currently teaches Judaism 17 – despite teaching Hebrew for 700 years its first full Professor of Judaism was appointed in the 1970’s.) By the middle of the thirteenth century the Mongol invasion of Baghdad destroyed the Arabic culture. In the end of the next century the Turkish Ottoman Empire conquered the Arab Abbasids and Islam began to seriously decline. Until then Islam would have to be considered a religion of success. When Napoleon (at the beginning of the 19th century) invaded Egypt and landed in Alexandria Islam became a religion of failure. Today Islam is neither politically nor culturally cohesive. Islam is politically strong in the Far East (Indonesia), Central Asia (Pakistan and Bangladesh), Western Asia (Turkey) Northern Africa (Magreb and other states in Northern Africa), the Middle East and has significant minority population in Europe and the United States.  The only part of the world almost devoid of Muslims is South America.  Muslims are disoriented by the success of Europe, the United States and modernity. The only remaining Arabism that is successful is Arab religious fundamentalism and it is success is due the failure of the Muslims to modernize. 

It is important to note the Islamic politics and religion are not monolithic. The politics of the Abbasid caliphate, the Mamaluk Sultanate and the Ottomans Empire were quite different despite all claiming Mohammad as the founder. The religious disputes between Sunni, Shia and its Safavid branch in Iran and Sufis, between the Quietists versus the activists in Shia and the Muslim religious tolerant rule in the Indian subcontinent are all significantly different.

Sayyid Qutb whom we will discuss later as the leading twentieth century theoretician of Islamic fundamentalism was also a critic of Western societal values. He spent many years in Nasser’s jails and was in 1966 hung by the Egyptian government. His writing and his life cannot be separated. It is because his life and his writings are inter-twined that he has had such an enormous impact of the Islamic fundamentalist world.

“Humanity is standing at the brink of an abyss, not because of the threat of annihilation hanging over its head – for this is just a symptom of the disease and not the disease itself – but because humanity is bankrupt in the realm of values, those values which foster true human progress and development. This is abundantly clear to the Western World, the West can no longer provide the values necessary for the flourishing of humanity.” 18  This is the introductory chapter of his most famous and influential book. 

Qutb denied that human beings can be the source of values; only Allah can establish values. Many religious believers, both Jewish and Christian, as well as secular social critics may also believe that. But Qutb believes only the Qur’an provides for God’s values and he believes that Muslims can and should impose those values on the world. Any society ‘not dedicated to servitude to Allah alone and does not embody this servitude in its worldview and beliefs, its rituals and in its laws’ is in Qutb’s view illegitimate. 19  Thus any society that does not follow Islamic law as he defined it (and he wrote an eight volume exegeses of the Qur’an) is according to Qutb morally perverse.

If as Qutb believes Islam is intended to control mind and body then ‘religion can never be neutral when it is controlling or looking to structures that control’ 20  Qutb in fact believed that God’s relevance can only be seen in a political context. 21

The violent conflict is not directly between the West and Islam. The conflict is between Islam and the Islamists terrorists.  They are determined to beleaguer us, destroy our domestic tranquility, disrupt our economy, make our lives untenable. They cannot defeat the West. Even with globalized criminality and cyberterrorism.  However for westerners, accustomed to thinking of war as a finite undertaking, the notion of permanent war is especially hard to accept. We in the West are unfortunately more than bystanders, despite the war not being quite our own.  Even after September 11 many more people of the Islamic faith have died in this war than Westerners. In Iraq the latest aspect of this war, many times more Iraqis have died and will continually to die than westerners.

But there is another conflict that may or may not be violent between Islam and Christianity. There are roughly 2 billion Christians worldwide compared to 1.5 billion Muslims.. By past on current trends  by 2025 there will be 633 million Christians in Africa, 640 million in South America, and 460 million in Asia; in Europe the numbers will have remained constant, leaving it at third place among the Christian continents and falling. By 2050, to extrapolate further, only a fifth of the world’s Christians will be non-Hispanic whites.  22

Remarkable as this shift may be, more remarkable is the fact that it has come about largely in the past century, and even in the past 50 years. In Africa alone, the number of Christians has grown from 10 million in 1900 to 360 million today. In Korea, there were just 330,000 Christians at the turn of the century; in today’s South Korea, the number is 12 million, roughly a fourth of the total population. In China, Christian missionaries made little or no headway throughout the nineteenth century, but since the communists took power and began to persecute religious groups, the church has flourished. Today, there are tens of millions of Christians in China, and their numbers are growing dramatically every year. This is a remarkable ethnic change in Christianity from today with sweeping sociopolitical ramifications.

The most obvious will be a revival of the long-running duel between Christianity and Islam — with fault lines not in Spain and the Balkans, but in the African savannah and the Indonesian rainforests.  This battle has already begun in the long-simmering civil wars that plague Sudan and Nigeria, where Islamic attempts to impose shari’a have met with Christian resistance — or in the southern Philippines, where Muslim rebels like Abu Sayyaf make war against the Christian majority.

Jenkins sees alliances forming and conflicts spreading as Christians and Muslims come to the aid of their coreligionists. He imagines an African clash between an Islamic Nigeria and a Christian alliance of Uganda and Congo, for instance, sparked by religious strife in a smaller nation like Cameroon. Jenkins also foresees a war between the Catholic Philippines and Muslim Indonesia, fueled by each nation’s persecution of its religious minorities. 23

Against this trend, secularists and liberal Christians will place their hopes for the triumph of modernity. This would slowly bring Africa and Latin America the rising incomes and political and social freedoms that have, according to some theories, caused the secularization of once-devout Europe. We may discover whether modernity is compatible with Christianity, and with Islam.

Islam began with Muhammad being both the Prophet and the political leader.  At his death this changed, his successors were chosen by his ‘companions’ similar to disciples in Christianity. His disciples chose what became known as the four ‘Righteous Caliphs’. But this was not accepted by all, particularly by Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali called the first Imam and his successors, his son Hassan and then his brother Hussein who became the third Imam.  All three were killed and when Hussein was killed with his son in 680 the Shi’ite sect began.  The Imam’s considered themselves the religious leaders; the Caliphs claimed political power.  During this time various Caliphs also were killed; Umar ibn al-Khattabwas was stabbed in 644; Uthman was hacked to death in 656; Marwan was smothered by his wife in 683; Uman ibn Abd al-Aziz was poisoned in 720 and Al-Walid ibn Yazid hacked to death. 

Bernard Lewis has claimed that the separation of State and Religion is one the key differences between Islam and the West.  This is apparently true now but during the early days the political and religious power were not clearly separated. 24 Following Muhammad who was a religious and political leader the conflict among the leadership began almost immediately.

Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet was killed as he entered the Mosque to lead the prayers. Ali’s son Hassan began the Shi’ite movement by refusing to recognize the selected Caliph. Hassan was forced to retire and was probably poisoned. His brother Hussein then became the third Imam.

Hussein stood facing the several thousand man army of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid. Hussein and his family and perhaps two hundred men went into the conflict. Being barred by his enemies of water Hussein released his men from an oath to fight; some left. But seventy-two of his companions (and his family) refused and they went to a certain death. Hussein was beheaded at Kerbala as was his one year old son.

Despite the religious paradigm of separation of state and religion existing within Muhammad it fell apart almost from the beginning.

According to Lewis the religious disagreements between Protestants and Catholics, were so devastating to Christian Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that Christians were driven in desperation to evolve a doctrine of the separation of religion from the state. Only by depriving religious institutions of coercive power, it seemed, could Christendom restrain the murderous intolerance and persecution that Christians had visited on those of their own religion who professed other forms and secondly on non-Christians. While Islam had inter-religious conflicts between Imams, Caliphs and Sultans, Sunnis and Shiites, between Sufis and Sunnis, between North African Berber tribes and the Fatimites, the Almoravites and the Almohades it has never had, perhaps until now the level of religious warfare in Christendom. In this Christendom came the beginnings of secularism, and the creation of the ‘nation state’ which arrived in the Mid East as a result of colonialism.

The struggle of the religious fundamentalists is against two separate enemies, secularism and modernism. The battle against secularism is conscious and explicit, and there is by now a whole literature denouncing secularism as an evil neo-pagan force in the modern world and attributing it variously to the Jews, the United States and the West. The West has many critics of secularism and many who think its power has always been overrated.

The battle against modernity is far more important. This battle is for the most part neither conscious nor explicit, and is directed against the whole process of change that has taken place in the Islamic world in the past century has transformed the political, economic, social, and even cultural structures of Muslim countries. 

In Bernard Lewis’ ‘What Went Wrong’ 25 the author discussed the triumph of western science and technology particularly war technology. In his ‘The Crisis of Islam’ 26 (really about the Arab Middle East) he notes that Turkey with its sixty four million people has the highest per capita Gross National Product of any Islamic country; it is equal to Denmark with its five million people. The lack of a  knowledge society in the Mid East is even more differentiating. The entire Arab world translates a little over three hundred books a year, one-fifth the number of Greece. Even more striking, the total number of translated books since the ninth century is approximately 100,000, the average that Spain translates in a single year.

In the nineteenth century the West Europeans learned Arabic, Turkish and Persian; Muslims did not learn English or French or German. Europeans had Embassies in the Istanbul to understand the Turks; the Turks felt no need to have Embassies in Europe. When Arabs try to understand what went wrong they ask ‘Who did this to us’? And they respond the English, the French; the United States and finally the Zionists. They never ask what did we do or what can we do.

Christianity and Islam are sister religions; their parent is Judaism. Islam is closer theologically to Judaism.  Both religions in their days were ravaged by wars, both internal and external. Christianity learnt from its defeats and changed over centuries into modernity. Islam assumed they had sinned and needed to return to a purer form of Islam. Christianity modernized, Islam remained medieval. 

The West can be defined as having a rational or scientific world-view, a tolerant attitude towards other religious views and an acceptance (in not an acceptance) of women being equal to men. This is not accepted in the Arabic culture and in the Islamic tradition.

As Bernard Lewis has stated the Arabs never got to the heart of how success in the modern world works. Matters were exacerbated, too, by the way in which autocratic governments with a high level of involvement in the economy came to command the modernizing projects of Middle Eastern states. Differing economic approaches are symbolized in differing forms of corruption. As Lewis states ‘In the West one makes money in the market, and uses it to buy or influence power. In the East, one seizes power, and uses it to make money.’ Muslim societies have failed to modernize, Lewis continues, because they have failed to surmount social and cultural barriers.

Lewis points out four factors

1. The separation of Church and State allowed for a Civil Society and Secular Laws that can be changed as necessary.

2. Women are kept ignorant and illiterate. 27

3. In the West Government and business hires personnel primarily based on merit and qualification, in the Middle East on patronage and favor.

4. In the past 20 years every part of the World has democratized – Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America even Sub-Saharan Africa – except the Mid East which remains with its oppressive governments.

A new report published in 2002 by Arab intellectuals commissioned by the United Nations confirmed what Lewis has said. It warns that Arab societies are being crippled by a lack of political freedom, the repression of women and an isolation from the world of ideas that stifles creativity. The study said the Arab world needs improvements in economic, social and political institutions. It calls for the promotion of good governance by providing more opportunities and freedom and by liberating women and others in need. (Bin Laden is equally obsessed with manliness and women. It is indeed one of his most cherished Occidentalist creeds. "The rulers of that region [the Gulf States] have been deprived of their manhood," he said in 1998. "And they think the people are women. By God, Muslim women refuse to be defended by these American and Jewish prostitutes." The West, in his account, is determined "to deprive us of our manhood. We believe we are men." As Professor Mona Makram-Ebed of the American University said ‘“For the Islamists, the target is to Islamise modernity and not modernize Islam” 28 )

It underlines how far the Arab states still need to go in order to join the global information society and economy as full partners and to tackle the human and economic scourge of joblessness, which afflicts Arab countries as a group more seriously than any other developing region. And it clearly outlines the challenges for Arab states in terms of strengthening personal freedoms and boosting broad-based citizen participation in political and economic affairs.

The continued problem can be seen by a recent business conference held in Saudi Arabia.

The Jeddah Economic Forum, held January 17-19, 2004, was attended by top Saudi officials and businessmen, as well as international leaders such as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.


For the first time, Saudi businesswomen participated in the forum in the same room with men - some of them even without the veil (Hijab). In past forums, women were only allowed to participate via closed-circuit television. Media reports on the conference featured photos of unveiled women participants, which enraged the Saudi religious establishment.


During the conference, Saudi businesswoman Lubna Al-'Alian, who delivered a speech before all participants on 'The Saudi Perception Regarding Growth,' attracted special attention. In her speech, she said: "Without genuine change, it will be impossible to attain any genuine progress. If we want progress in Saudi Arabia, there is no substitute for reform."  29


In response to Al-'Alian's speech, Nahed Taher, an economist who works for the Al-Ahli Bank in Saudi Arabia, told the French news agency AFP: "As a Saudi woman, I think we have accomplished an historic deed, thanks to you, Lubna... We women have been isolated within our homes because of discrimination, but today there is the political will to accept us in daily life... Constitutional change is necessary to strengthen the role of the women [in society], which complements the role of the men." 30


The conservative religious establishment responded as follows with Saudi Mufti condemning Women's Participation in the Forum. The Mufti  Sheikh Abd Al-'Aziz al Al-Sheikh, condemned the mixing of the sexes at the forum, and the media's release of photos of the unveiled Saudi businesswomen.   31

Islam once at the center of the world’s advanced civilization is now at its margins. As a result, a sense of failure has suffused Muslim life. If Islam brings God's grace, many Muslims have asked themselves, why then do Muslims fare so poorly? This traumatic history of things going all wrong is the key to understanding modern Islam. Islamic reaction has translated into anger, envy, hostility, irrational fears, conspiracy theories, and political extremism.

These can been by the reaction to September 11.  A Bir Zeit University poll found that 26 percent of Palestinians considered the September 11 attacks consistent with Islamic law. 32 In Pakistan, a Gallup found a nearly identical 24 percent reaching this conclusion. 33 Even those who consider the attacks on September 11 an act of terrorism (64 percent of both Palestinians and Pakistanis) showed respect for these as acts of political defiance and technical prowess.  An online survey of Indonesians found 50 per cent seeing bin Laden as a "justice fighter" and 35 per cent a terrorist. 34


‘Where does this difference between the past and the future come from? Why do we remember the past and not the future?’ (Stephen T. Hawkins, A Brief History of Time)

Progress looks toward the future; Arabic time looks toward the past. The Christian Bible including the Hebrew Bible begins with Genesis and ends with the Book of Revelation, an apocalypse at the end of time. Jews, according to the nineteenth century philosopher Herbert Spenser live ‘inside the past and inside the future’. The Qur’an with its 114 chapters is canonized with the longest chapters first and the shortest last, despite taking over twenty years to relate and history moving along. The Qur’an therefore does not take progress as a theological mode. In recent years time has moved more quickly and the Muslim mind remains future behind.

The terms discussed in this section; Secularization, Modernity (and post-modernity) and Globalization are terms with a great deal of controversy and defined differently by different authors. Is modernity a single concept or are their ‘mutiple modernities’? Craig Calhoun suggests that ‘modernity is an era shaped by contradiction’. He is referring to the contradiction between the supposed universality of modernity and national identity and individualism.35 Is Globalization a universal concept/process or is a version of Westernization or more specifically an Americanization form of Capitalism? Are the Japanese, Chinese and Indian (or even Latin American) concept/process’ of Modernity and Globalization different forms or different in principle? How does Huntington’s concept of civilizational geographic regions impact these concepts?

Globalization and Modernity are (I believe) processes similar to the industrial revolution. Secularism is an ideology similar in principle to capitalism, communism, fascism or religion. These ideologies are not independent; secularism and capitalism impacted on each of the three monotheistic religions in different ways.  Secularism influenced Europe and the United States Christian continents differently than Islam. Three quarters of Muslims live in predominately Islamic regions and have not been significantly influenced by secularism; that is not unrelated to the clash of civilizations.

In Europe and the United States a further development is known as post-modernism. Post-modernism is difficult and contentious to describe. If modernism began as part of the enlightenment some have argued that post-modernism’s forefathers were Freud, Joyce (if not in Ulysses then certainly in Finnegans Wake), Picasso and Einstein. Baudrillard called it an ‘historical collapse’ 36 Iain Chambers called it ‘negative rationalism, an excess that spills over and sabotages the limits of the previously ‘rational’ ‘. 37

I believe it is an ideology comparable to secularism and a not a process like modernism. Secularism came out of the enlightenment an ideology based on reason. In its origin secularism was anti-religion; as Voltaire stated ‘if god did not exist we would have to invent him’. Religion no longer finds it necessary to conflict with reason, the two can co-exist.  Post-modernism is counter to the enlightenment and therefore to secularism. It does not believe in reason or any objective reality or truth.  It believes in power, individualism, exploitation, materialism and has no value systems. As an example the author saw an advertisement (perhaps two meters by three meters in size) at a bus stop in Ireland. There was a large word ‘Achtung’ in black. In the background behind the single word was an illustration of the Auschwitz death camp with its chimneys, the railroad tracks and steel meshed fence seemingly electrified. At the bottom in much lesser letters was the advertisement for a soft drink. Some have claimed that post-modernism is consistent with globalization (Eliezer Schwied) and some that it is not (Moshe Halbertal). Craig Calhoun has suggested a comparison between the fin de siecle ending the nineteenth century before WWI and what he considered the fin de siecle ending the twentieth century. At the ending of the twentieth century and the ending of the cold war the ethnic cleansing of Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, the Balkans and perhaps even exacerbating the problems the religious conflicts in India and the Israeli-Palestinian. He was suggesting that extreme national identity results in ethnic cleansing and are part of the post-modern phenomena.  38

Globalization involves universal values while political and social order are highly particularistic. Does globalization tend therefore to lessen nationalism and national identity? Does it foster multi-culturalism? Both nationalism and multi-culturalism seem to be growing. In Europe the EU fosters multi-culturalism and limits national identity. Yet in most European countries there are growing political parties fostering nationalism. In recent elections these right-wing often racist parties have received significant votes. Is this a reaction to globalization? Are Muslims in Europe seen as the ‘outsider’ as un-assimilational foreigners? Is there a conflict between the multi-culturalism of the globalized world and the nationalism of the underdeveloped world? Globalization involves science, technology, meritocracy and social civic development. Is there a conflict between of Islamic civilization and globalization?


Secularism is a particular ‘mode of thought’ (Oxford English Dictionary), as is Communism, Socialism, Liberal Democracy and Ba’athism. An ideology can be defined as ‘way of thinking’. Religion is also a ‘way of thinking’ and therefore can be defined as an ideology. A communism that believes in Atheism as did Karl Marx’ opposes Religion. A secularism that believes in the separation of Church and State does not necessarily oppose Religion. They are defining different areas where each is prominent. America’s secularism is not anti-religious, French secularism may be.

Secularism differentiates morality, ethics and law from religion. A secular ethic is detached from a religious ethic. That is what makes religious pluralism and religious tolerance possible. Different religions act differently towards this differentiation and detachment. Judaism with its Midrashic and Haggadik systems  of internal interpretations is the most liberal. Rabbi Babya ben Asher (a thirteenth century commentator) commented ‘The scroll of the Torah is [written] without vowels, in order to enable man to interpret it however he wishes . . . without vowels man may interpret it [extrapolating from it] several [different] things, many marvelous and sublime.’ 39  A text composed consonants alone it almost unreadable. The purpose is to instill care and alertness in the reading, to point out the enormous possibilities in the text; as well as to formulate new readings which may have no resemblance to the original meaning of the original listener. Within Christianity Protestants are most liberal, next are Catholics and last are the Orthodox. The latter are most literalist as is Islam.  40 The original Arabic text of the Qur’an similar to the Hebrew scroll of the Bible contains no vowels. As such the Qur’an can be equally interpreted liberally, but has, so far, not been so used.  

Secularism as a social system assumes a world that is neutral, detached, objective and sometimes rational. For a religious person the world may operate that way and God still be above it all. A religious person may on the other hand assume God is responsible for what happens to him good or bad. Job assumed that. But for him God had become devilish. Indeed he was right God did allow Satan to torment him. 41  In today’s world very few, even religious people give God credit for their successes and do not blame God for their failures. It would be almost schizophrenic to give God credit for success and not blame God for failure.

In the modern world secularism has become a sacred idea– secular comes from the word sacral. Secular clergy worked in the real world, while religious clergy lived in monasteries. Democracy means religious believers must have a guarantee of freedom to worship, but this is in exchange for non-believers entitlement not to worship, thus we have separation of Church and State. This means ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’.  This, of course is a Christian concept. 42 Democracy has become an iconic sacral word. Even absolute murdering dictatorships; the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin or China under Mao called themselves ‘Democratic’ or ‘Peoples’ Republics when they were the opposite. (Interestingly for our subject one of the few countries in the world that does not claim nor wish to be called democratic is Saudi Arabia.) Globalization which we shall discuss shortly makes for better democracy by creating a more open information society.

Secularism began in Europe – it is part of the Renaissance, the Reformation and the enlightenment movement begun in 18th century leading to the French and American Revolutions. It is related, but not inherently to the growth of Scientism and Modern Technology.

Europe remains where Secularism is strongest. The Belgium Prime Minister is an avowed Atheist – in America an Atheistic could not be elected President. America which has built the idea of separation between Church and of State into its constitutional seems more comfortable than Europe with the role of religion in public life. This may be part of the problem between Europe and Israel. Europe with its deep secular culture fear a ‘Jewish’ state; in America a ‘Jewish’ state is not only not strange but in fact seems consistent to Evangical Protestants.

38% of Americans say they would not vote for a well-qualified Muslim for president, 15% for a well-qualified evangelical Christian, 10% for a Jewish candidate, 8% for a Catholic candidate. Half of the Americans say they would not vote for a well-qualified atheist. In Europe Churches are tourist sites where you may have to pay to enter, in the U.S. it is where people go on Sunday (or Saturday or Friday) to pray.

If Europe would seem to confirm that secularization means a reduction in religious life, America implies the opposite. Perhaps something in the European culture, aside from religion results in the reduction in religious life in Europe. European countries are still rebelling against nineteenth century clerical power.

In February 2004 the French Parliament passed a law forbidding obvious religious symbols, particularly Headscarves for Muslim girls in public schools. The basis of that law is that the French religion, despite its overwhelming Catholic population (90%) and seven of eleven French national holidays celebrating Catholic events, is Secularism. France has the highest percentage (59%) of population who never attend church and the lowest who attend church weekly (19%) in all of Europe. 43 When the headscarve law was passed the French Prime Minister Raffarin stated

‘Our vision of secularity is not opposed to religions. Everybody has the right to express his faith as long as he respects the laws of the Republic inside the Republic's schools’. 44 Recently (April 2004) in the German state of Baden-Wuertemberg the legislation passed almost unanimously a ban on headscarves for teachers in Public Schools. Another five states are in the process of passing similar legislation. It is worth noting that in Turkey 90% Muslim, headscarves are forbidden in public building including Universities. The current Prime Minister wife wears a headscarve and consequently has never seen her husband in the Parliament.

According to the Pew Global Attitude Report published in December 2002 59% of the population in the United States felt that religion played a very important role in their lives. In secular Western Europe approximately 25% had that belief. Why this difference? Can it be that the American constitutional barrier against established religion makes for more religious belief? Can it be that separation of church and state increases religious belief?  De Tocqueville realized that 150 years ago. ‘I wondered how it could come about that by diminishing the apparent power of religion one increased its real strength.’ 45 Religious competition may increase the number of believers.  When religion is part of the establishment it is natural to dissidents to rebel against it; when it is a choice why rebel against it? It is likely that the enormous diversity of religious denominations is the result of the separation of church and state. As noted above seven of the ten French national holidays are Christian days, in the United States only one (Christmas day) of ten national holidays is a Christian day. The Pew Internet and American Life Project in April 2004 stated that 82 million Americans (64% of all ‘wired’ Americans) have used the Internet for spiritual or religious purposes. And they are online longer on a daily basis than the average American and 56% have been active on the Internet for six years.

The United States adopting a minimalist position towards religion has more people going to Church, Mosques and Synagogues on a regular basis than Catholic Italy, France or Spain. When the religious authorities in Poland used their power to legitimatize the restoration movement it helped, when the clerics tried to use their power to control the government they failed. Perhaps there is something positive about religions existing in a state using the minimalist approach to religion. Another country (like the United States) that is an exception is Ireland ranked very high on the Globalization index has a very high religious participation. 46

The private/public separation implies a belief in individual/society separation.  This may be a Western concept. If Islamic societies are based on a communal/tribal/ hierarchical outlook will the separation of mosque and state work? (One can ask the same question about modernization a more important issue – to be discussed in the next section - will it work in a communal/tribal setting?) 

Are secularists advancing and conquering the traditional orthodox and conservative branches of churches? Peter Berger, the outstanding sociologist of religion once claimed the irreversibility of secularism  47 reversed himself stating in a recent book that he was wrong. The world ‘is as furiously religious as it ever was, and in some places more so than ever.’  48

‘The conservative thrust in the Roman Catholic Church under John Paul II has borne fruit in both the numbers of converts and in the renewed enthusiasm among native Catholics. . . Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, too, there occurred a remarkable revival of the Orthodox Church in Russia. In Latin America Protestant Evangical are hugely successful. The most rapidly growing Jewish groups, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, are Orthodox groups. There have been similar vigorous upsurges of conservative religion in all the other major religious communities – Islam, Hindus, Buddhism – as well as revival movements in smaller communities (such as Shinto in Japan and Sikhism in India)’. 49

Not all versions of secularism are ‘antithetical or inimical to Islam’ 50 or other religious thought. Harvey Cox in his famous ‘The Secular City’ considers that ‘secularization is the liberation of man from religious and metaphysical tutelage the turning of his attention away from other worlds and towards this one.’ 51

Perhaps as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel noted that while ‘it is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the collapse of religion in the modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive and insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past, when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with voice of compassion, its message becomes meaningless’.   52

Does religious freedom require religious indifference? Does this mean that the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an’s requirement of justice and mercy can no longer be a state demand? Is a leading Turkish Islamist Ali Bulac correct in calling secularism ‘. 53 Or is God, for violent fundamentalists imitating Satan. People’s fantasy’s about other people is God’s worst fantasy. Secular humanism especially in the United States is no an attack on God, but on government usage of religion, any and all religions. Apparently U.S. Supreme Court  Justice Antonin Scalia's believes that the American state derives its legitimacy not from the citizenry but from God. 54

Secularism may be against Tradition.  But who defines the Tradition – is the Tradition always right.  Were not the Prophets and Job in fact against the Tradition? Can the Tradition be defined as ‘Separatist’ as ‘Inclusivist’ or even ‘Pluralist’.  In each religion there are observant followers who believe all of those concepts. Even the Qur’an has statements that suggest pluralism. ‘Had God willed, they were not idolaters; and We have not appointed you a watcher over them, neither are you their guardian. Abuse not those to whom they pray, apart from God, or they will abuse God in revenge without knowledge’ (Sura 7:107). Thus coercion is strictly forbidden. ‘We have not sent you [O Muhammad] as a guardian over them’ (17:54). ‘We know very well what they [unbelievers] say; you are not a controller over them’ (50:45). This is the Qur’anic basis of religious freedom.

All do not believe in oppressing women, the unobservant or the ‘Outsider’. Religious personalities have different levels of religious observance, behavior, beliefs, sensibilities, expressions and relationship to the general society. 55

Does Secularism (and Modernization and Globalization) imply lowering of religious belief. Or does secularism compartmentalize religion between private and public lives. If so it will ‘deprivilegize’ religious clerics (a problem for them) but not necessarily a religious concerns. Despite the United States being a paradigm of Secularism, Modernization and Globalization religious concerns have great significance as seen by the political power of the Christian Right. As of this writing (February 2004) one would believe that the most important issue in America was the fight against ‘Gay marriages’; the American president just proposed a constitutional amendment. The American constitution has twenty seven amendments; the first ten amended at one time, thus the process has been accomplished only  seventeen times in America’s two hundred year history. 56 In last presidential election one could belief that abortion rights were the most important facing in the country.


Hichem Djait claimed that ‘modernity is the dominant influence on Europe’s destiny’ 57

Some think the Modern age began with the French and American revolutions, some with the 1848 revolution in Europe. I count the modern age as beginning with WWI. Before that mankind, at least in the West, believed war was good for the spirit of mankind. Even Freud one of the great modernizers of the twentieth century accepted that myth. By the end of 1914 no one would ever deny the horrors of war.


Modernity involves the rationalization of production and services using science and technology on an almost global basis.

Tradition has been central to humanity for millennia. Tradition is threatened by

Modernity. Tradition according to David Gross is ‘a set of practices, a constellation of beliefs or a mode of thinking that exists in the present, but was inherited from the past’. 58 Modernity creates discontinuities from Tradition; including the pace of change, the scope of change and the nature of modern institutions. 59 By modern institutions I include nation-states, democracy, the commodification of labor and capital, the size of cities and space as the next frontier.  In the year 2000 there were 107 cities with a population of over 2,000,000, in 1800 there were none (only Beijing had more that 1,000,000).

Modernity creates an identity issue. ‘This phenomenon of highly Westernized Muslims and converted Christians becoming radicalized believers has happened throughout Western Europe. Relatively few Turks have joined radical Islamic organizations allied with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, even though Turkish fundamentalists are numerous and often hardcore. At home and abroad, they are perhaps more numerous and better organized than are fundamentalists of any other nationality. But the Turks who have been arrested for association with al Qaeda usually share one bond: They were either born or raised in Germany and are culturally more German than they are Turkish Muslim. These young men are part of what the Iranian-French scholar Farhad Khosrokhavar has called the néo-umma guerrière--"the new holy-war community of believers" that recognizes neither national nor ethnic identity nor traditional Islamic values. Their Islam is "a new type of Nietzscheanism" where suicide and murder become sacred acts of an elite, self-made race of believers who want to bring on a purifying Apocalypse… Europe's jihadists are born from their imperfect assimilation into Western European societies, from the particular alienation that young Muslim males experience in Europe's post-Christian, devoutly secular societies. The phenomenon is vastly more common among Arabs than among African or Asian Muslims. The reasons why these young, predominantly Arab males are drawn to the most militant expressions of Islam are complex and always personal. But their journey--which they usually begin as highly Westernized, modern-educated youths of little Islamic faith and end as practitioners of bin Ladenism--is a thoroughly European experience. ‘ 60

Modernization was created and developed in the West and in the last fifty years Globalization has followed from modernization.

Modernity involves

1. Specialization of certain functions, particularly education, health care and welfare once controlled by the Church, now run by the state.

2. Small scale and rural communities have lost control to urban bureaucratic entities.

3. Empiricism and rationalization, the most technically efficient means of achieving an end.

In the West this developed over 200 years. Modernization in third world countries has taken place in at most several decades. Modern states do not require democracy and can be theocracies or autocracies. China is a modern state. This modernization has caused social dislocation; social, economic and cultural transformations, mass migration from rural to urban centers, uneven development, and the failure of welfare and educational systems. The rising rate of childbirth when combined with the above factors results in unemployment. These in turn created a failure of long held assumptions and fostered a climate of crisis.

One of the impacts of modernization is the value placed on individual choice. Individual self-fulfillment, achievement and individual identity are one of the most powerful incentives in modern life and society. Individualism means diversity and skepticism. This opposes the traditional way of life. (There may be as many problems in this modern society as in a traditional society but they are different. Alienation is certainly more likely than in a communally oriented society.) 

Democracy means individual human rights, acceptance of law, norms of behaviour in social relationships, equality before the law regardless of race, ethnic background, class or religion, government by consent and tolerance. As quoted by Elie Kadourie in a poll by a Cairo newspaper (al-Ahram) of almost 5,000 people 56% favored a Western-style democracy and 52% the ‘sharia’. 61 This glaring contradiction shows the ambiguity and misunderstanding of democracy in the Arab world. According to Kedourie the ideas westerners hold about democracy are ‘alien to the Muslim political tradition’. 62 The fear of anarchy was greater than the fear of despotism as noted by the great commentator Ghazali (d. 1111) ‘the tyranny of a Sultan for a hundred years causes less damage than one year’s tyranny exerted by the subjects against each other’. 63


In 1875 Alexander Bell invented the Telephone; one hundred years later parts of the world still did not have telephone communication. In 1985 the PC was invented. Less than twenty years later 125 million American have PC’s.  There are over 50 billion websites (2004) with billions growing each year.  In 1970 the first satellite was rocketed up into space. Today over 250 satellite communication vehicle circle the earth seeing every nook and cranny of the earth including seeing your automobile license.


Globalization is a widening, deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness.  64 It is the integration of markets, finance, and technologies in a way that is shrinking the world from a size medium to a size small and enabling each of us to reach around the world farther, faster, and cheaper than ever before. 65 and as such is not new but a growth of modernization.  66 Computer programmers in India and Jerusalem deliver real time services to employers and customers in Berlin, while poppy cultivation in Burma serve the same or different employers and customers in the same city. One can be seen as a positive development and the other negative one, but both are part of globalization.

Globalization is a dynamic integrated system fed by modernity and created by:

1. The communication revolution; communication is now instantaneous.  In the more advanced regions of the world (soon to cover more of the world) people do not have postal addresses, they have Email addresses. More information in certain forms can be found on the Internet than in the greatest libraries in the world. News and Financial changes reverberate instantly.  More people meet their significant other over Internet dating services than by being introduced by parents or friends.

2. A global economy that is electronic. It is based on services and not on producing. A generation ago the majority of the working class in the West worked in agriculture and manufacturing today they represent 15%. Globalization and modernization have resulted in the increase of women into the economy and the knowledge industries. The global economy which refers to a free market system is also a free market of ideas. In most Islamic countries that idea is not acceptable; changing religion is considered apostasy, forbidden politically, legally and socially.  Jansen has stated that he was told by a leading Muslim that ‘Islam has always been a violent half-fascist theocracy’. 67

3. Changes in the life sciences whether in gene modification, infertility treatment or successful heart replacement are factored through the world almost instantly. Science can be considered the new religion of Europe and even the United States.

These three factors have improved the quality and length of many people’s lives. It has also created enormous social dislocation. There is a symbiotic relationship between Modernization and Globalization. Globalization can only exist because there are a number of financially and perhaps militarily powerful Modernized states. And it can only exist positively in a modernized state. Globalization can impact non-modernized states mainly negatively but they cannot take advantage of its positive elements.

The anti-globalization movement has demonstrated sometimes violently at meeting of international organizations (G8, World Bank and the IMF). It is anti-American, anti-American corporate power and anti-capitalism (defined to include free trade, market competition and free capital and currency flows).  Those third world countries that have recently joined the globalization movement; India, China and Malaysia have in fact increased the standard of living of their citizens. (This despite former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad describing currency financiers as ‘morons [and being] directed by a Jewish cabal’. 68 Globalization is not ‘run’ by anyone and is not ‘directed’ by anyone.  Once begun it runs on its own internally generated rules.  Mahathir was a founding member of the G-15 – the second world equivelant to the G-8. He defined his own ‘vision 2020 which includes becoming globally competitive and having a corporate culture including an Islamic component.  It is clear that despite the Islamic component of his values he is comfortable with profitability.

Thomas Friedman described it as an ‘electronic herd’. 69  No one can deny the inequalities of the rich versus the poor, the question is does globalization make it worse or help those poor countries that choose to join? In Asia and Latin America the quality of life has increased in recent decades. In Africa and the Middle East it has not; but they have not joined the globalization movement. There are many reasons for the lack of progress in Africa; the Middle East we will discuss in this book. People have correctly describe globalization as a train going in one direction. The train brings many things and has costs but it does bring progress and getting off the train will bring poverty.

Is globalization simply the westernization of the world? China and India who make up more than 50% of the non-West’s world’s population do not think so; they are  globalizing as quickly as they possibly can not joining the West. Is the opposite of the materialism of the West the spirituality of the East? Jean-Francis Revel, a French Philosopher in his book ‘Anti-Americanism’ said "Everyone knows that the purest unselfishness reigns in Africa and Asia, especially in the Muslim nations, and that the universal corruption that is ravaging them is the expression of a high spirituality." 70

Isaiah Berlin called ‘Occidentalism’ a sense of humiliation, of defeat. He was describing the German revolt against Napoleon as "the original exemplar of the reaction of many a backward, exploited, or at any rate patronized society, which, resentful of the apparent inferiority of its status, reacted by turning to real or imaginary triumphs and glories in its past, or enviable attributes of its own national or cultural character."


Modernization and Globalization are inevitable for national success in the modern Twenty-First century; secularism is not. Anthony Glidden stated in his 1999 Reith lecture that Fundamentalism is the child of Globalization.

John L. Esposito a noted western Islamicist has recently written a book about the impact of secularism on Islam. He claims that ‘secular paradigms are being discredited and even dethroned’ and goes on to claim as examples ‘conflicts in Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, Nigeria, Bosnia, Kosovo, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Central Asian republics, Sri Lanka and Indonesia’ He then goes on to discuss Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia and Turkey to continue his case. 71

Most of the countries he notes are ‘failed states’ for reasons having nothing to do with secularism.  Nigeria has the largest population in Africa - 125 million persons. From a natural resource perspective it is perhaps the richest country in Africa.   It has a mixed population of Christians (40%) and Muslims (50%); most of the Muslims live in the North and the Christians live in the South. The Christians have a civic legal system, the Muslims have an Islamic legal system. The Muslim legal system - the sharia - recently condemned a woman who had a child out of wedlock to death. In the Christian legal system it is not even a crime. How this can country reconcile its contradictory civil and religiously based legal systems is difficult to foresee.

India has significant problems with its Muslim minority and with Pakistan but has not dethroned secularism and is clearly moving towards modernization and globalization.  Turkey with its new Islamic Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogen, is doing all it can to have Turkey join the modernized and globalized European Union. Esposito claims that Islam and Turkey in particular are in danger of ‘secular fundamentalism’ It does not appear that Turkey (nor India) sees itself as in danger of ‘secular fundamentalism’ as claimed by Esposito. 72 Turkey has recently forced its Turkish Cypriot subsidiary republic to merge with the Greek Cyprus entity as it appeared to them to be a condition for Turkey itself joining the European Union.

The successfully modernized countries in Asia are Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan; none of them claim to be secular. China is moving towards modernization and globalization. China is officially atheist not secular but believes in the wisdom of Confucius. The religion of these countries or their secularization does not seem to be relevant. What is clear is from these successful examples is that globalization does not mean homogenization.  Whether Indonesia, the largest Islamic country in the world, progresses towards modernization and globalization would appear to have little to do with whether it secularizes but whether it creates the means to succeed in the modern world.

Islamicism can be considered the natural reaction to modernization and governmental secularism


Jewry has always placed itself between the Euphrates and the Nile, between Persia and Greece and between Christianity and Islam.  They never identified themselves between with ether side and in fact fought a civil war (the Maccabean War in the second century BCE) against going to one side. The only exception was WWII and the Holocaust – that was the exception that proved the rule.

What about today? Has Israel (and the Jews) chosen the West?

Is the Clash of Civilizations a Geo-Political (including Oil) conflict or a Religious conflict? Is it a Judeo-Christian conflict versus Islam or the Geo-Political West versus the Rest?

Sayyid Qutb, one the most important Fundamentalist Islamic theoreticians called Israel the ‘spearhead’ of Western Culture. Osama bin Ladin believes Israel is the Head of the Crusader snake. Many Islamist accept those analyses.

Is Israel related to the American Christian Right? They believe in Israel due to the collective Jewish sin in regards their Messiah. His second coming they believe can only be when the Jews control Israel. What if Israel and the Jews disappoint the Christians again?

What happens if the Jewish (and Israel) identity is connected to Judeo-Christianity and not longer solely to Judaism? What happens if Israeli (and Jewish) identity is connected to the West and not the Rest?

In fact from many aspects Judaism is much closer to Islam than to Christianity. Should Israel and the Jews be part of this Clash of Civilizations? 73


Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize Winner in Literature said in an interview ‘There is a big danger in being clutched by the past, and there is a big danger in escaping it’. 74

1 Mernisis, Fatima, Islam and Democracy, (Addison-Wesley Publishing, N.Y., 1992) pg. 13.

2 Atlantic Monthly September 1990.

3 Translated into ‘Europe and Islam’ (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1985), pg. 6.

4 Samuel P. Huntington, THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993.

5 Samuel P. Huntington. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

6 Huntington, Foreign Affairs.

7 Quoted by Philip Gordon, ‘Bridging the Atlantic Divide’, in Foreign Affairs, Jan. – Feb. 2003.

8 Huntington, Foreign Affairs.

9 No census of religious identity exists in China.

10 Foreign Policy Magazine, March/April 2004.

11 David Skidmore, Department of Political Science, International Relations Program, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, USA, Journal of World System Research, Volume 4, Number 2 (Fall 1998).

12 Brooks, David, Why the Europeans and Arabs, each in their own way, hate America and Israel, The Weekly Standard 04/15/2002, Volume 007, Issue 30.

13  Weber, Max, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, (Scribner, N.Y., 1958).

14 Responses to Huntington’s thesis appeared in the September 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs.

15 Ajami, Fouad, The Arab Predicament, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992) pg. 21-22.

16 Sharhur, M., The Book and The Qur’an: A Contemporary READING, (Damascus, 1999). See Dale F. Eickelman, pgs. 97-98 in Ben Rafael, E., Sternberg, Y., Identity, Culture And Globalization, (Brill, Leiden, 2001).

17 Gibbons, Edward, The Decline of the West (

18 Quoted in Euben, R.L., Enemy In The Mirror’ (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1999) pg. 55, from Qutb, Sayyid, Milestones, Holy Koran Publishing House, Malaysia , 1980

19  Euben, Enemy, pg. 57-58

20 Lawrence, Bruce, Shattering the Myth, (Princeton University Press, Pronceton, 19998) pg. 14.

21 Lawrence, pg. 21.

22 Jenkins, Philip, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.

(Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003)

23 ibid.

24 Jansen, Johannes, The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism, (Cornell University Press, N.Y., 1997) pg. xi.

25 Lewis, Bernard, What Went Wrong,

26 Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror,.(Modern Library,

27 According to Mernissi, Islam, a Morrocan sociologist, Arabs believe that women and their ‘unconquerable sexuality that is the irreducible fortress of sovereign individuality’, pg. 127.

28 International Forum of Middle East and North Africa, April 1, 2004

29 Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 18, 2004.

30, January 18, 2004; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 18, 2004.

31 Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), January 21, 2004. 

32 IRI, October 11, 2001

33 Newsweek, October 14, 2001.

34 Reuters, October 17, 2001.

35 Eisenstadt, S.N., ‘Multiple Modernities’, Daedalus, 129(1) and ‘The Vision of Modern and Contemporary Society’ pgs. 25-48, and Craig Calhoun, Nationalism, Modernism and Their Multiplicities, pgs. 445- 470, in Ben-Rafael, E., and Sternberg, Y., Identity, Culture and Globalization, (Brill, Leiden, 2001).

36 Baudrillard, J., The Ecstacy of Communication in H. Foster, ed. The Anti-Aesthetic, (Bay Press, Port Twonsend, 1983) and In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, (Semiotext, N.Y., 1983).

37 Iain Chambers ‘Waiting On the End of the World’, pg. 203, Morley, David and Chen, K.H., Sturat hall, Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, (Routledge, N.Y., 1966).

38 Calhoun, in Ben-Rafael, pgs. 468-470.

39Quoted in S. Parpola, The Assyrian Tree of Life: Tracing the Origins of Jewish Monotheism and Greek Philosophy, JNES 52, 1993, pg. 206.

40 Genevieve Comeau, ‘A Message for a Secularized World’ Ecumenism #146.

41 See chapter on Job in ‘Messengers of God’.

42 The Talmud rules that the state law is law – ‘din malkutah din’.

43 Quoted in Berger, Peter, The Desecularization of the world, (Eerdman Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1999) essay by Grace Davis, What Europe Thinks, pg. 69.

44 BBC News, March 3, 2004.

45 De Tocqueville, A., Democracy in America, (N.Y., 1969) pg. 296) quoted in Bruce, St., Religion and Modernization (Clarendon, Oxford, 1992) pg. 165.

46 The Globalization Index was developed by A.T. Kearney and Foreign Policy.

47 Berger, Peter, The Social Reality of Religion, (Penguin, N.Y., 1973)

48 Berger, P.L., ed., The Desecularization of the World, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1999), pg. 2. .

49 Peter L. Berger, ‘Secularism in Retreat’ in Esposito and Tamini, pg. 41.

50 S. Parvez Manzoor, Desacralising Secularism, in Esposito and Tamimi, pg. 81.

51 Cox, H., The Secular City, (Macmillan, N.Y., 1966) pg. 15.

52 Heschel, A.J., God in Search of Man, (  )  opening paragraphs

53 John Keane in ‘The Limits Of Secularism, from Esposito, J.J. and Tamini, A., eds., Islam and Secularism in the Middle East, (Hurst & Co., London, 2000), pg. 36.

54 Jacoby, Susan, A  History of American Secularism, (Metropolitan Books, N.Y., 2004).

55 Appelby. R. S., The Ambivalence of the Sacred, (Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham,

Maryland, 2000)  pg. 15.

56 The firs ten were done at one time.

57 Djait, Hicham, Europe and Islam, (University of California Press. Berkeley, 1985) pg. 145.

58 Gross, David, The Past in Ruin, (University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1992) pg. 8.

59 Toffler, A., Future Shock (Pan Books, London, 1971).

60 The Weekly Standard, March 29, 2004, Reuel Marc Gerecht.

61 Kedourie, Elie, Democracy and Arab Political Culture, (Frank Cass, London, 1994) pg. 1.

62 Kedourie, Democracy, pg. 6.

63 Kedourie, pg. 8.

64 Held, David, McGrew, A., Goldblatt, D. and Perraton, J., Global Transformations, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1999) pg. 2.

65 From Thomas Friedman, in ‘Dueling Globalization: A Debate Between Thomas L. Friedman and Ignacio Ramonet, Foreign Policy, Fall 1999.

66 Not all analysts agree to this transformation thesis of globalization. The ‘hyperglobalists’ see the phenomena as a new epoch and the ‘sceptics’ as nothing new under the sun. The transformationalist hold that globalization is a new central driving force behind the rapid social, political and economic changes reshaping the modern world. The author agrees partly with the transformationalists but believes it is a natural outgrowth of modernization and will affect the world in different and unforeseeable ways due to the discontinuities inherent in this futuristic world.  Held, Global, pgs. 3-10.

67 Jansen, Dual, pg. xiv.

68 World Bank meeting held in September 1997, quoted in Friedman, T.L., The Lexus and the Olive tree, (Anchor Books, N.Y., 2000) pg. 112.

69 Friedman, Lexus, chapter 7.

70  Revel, Jean- Francis,  ‘Anti-Americanism’, (Encounter Books, 2004)

71 Tamimi, Azzam and Esposito, J.L. Islam and Secularism in the Middle East, (Hurst, London, 2000) pg. 1-3.

72 Tamimi and Esposito, pg. 9.

73 Part of the thoughts behind this Appendix come from an Israeli academic Aviezer Ravistky.

74 Shiri Lev Avi, in Ha’aretz newspaper April 11, 2004.