Clash of Civilizations: Five Years After 9/11 Two Experts Assess Islam and the West

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

09/06/2006 - 'Dialogue' with Islam Cause for Hope; A conversation with Akbar Ahmed 

A native of Pakistan who served as his country's high commissioner to Great Britain, Akbar Ahmed offers the unique perspective of an anthropologist who has lived in and studied both Islamic and Western cultures. The BBC has described him as "the world's leading authority on contemporary Islam." He is the principal investigator for the "Islam in the Age of Globalization" research project at the Brookings Institution, with support from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and American University.

The central thesis of Ahmed's work is that dialogue is required to reduce conflict between the U.S. and Islam. For his traveling dialogues with Judea Pearl, the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, Ahmed was nominated as a 2005 finalist for Beliefnet's "Most Inspiring Person of the Year" award. Ahmed argues that there are three distinct kinds of leadership in play in the Muslim world -- mystic, modernist and exclusivist. This division, he says, is missed by analysts who see the Muslim world more or less as a monolith. If the United States and its political leaders continue what they are doing now, Ahmed says, then the success of the exclusivist groups is guaranteed.

Ahmed, 67, is Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, professor of International Relations, American University, Washington, D.C. He was interviewed on August 22, 2006 in the living room of his home, just outside Washington, D.C., by Mark O'Keefe, Associate Director, Editorial, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Read more on the Web site of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life --'Dialogue' with Islam Cause for Hope.

The Clash of Civilizations Revisited; A conversation with Samuel P. Huntington 

A reviewer of political scientist Samuel P. Huntington's first book compared him unfavorably to Mussolini. A reviewer of his 19th and latest book dubbed him "Patrick Buchanan with footnotes." But those reactions were mild compared with the controversy over the international political paradigm advanced in Huntington's most influential book, Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, published 10 years ago.

Although the book and a previous article of the same title in Foreign Affairs magazine did not predict the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Huntington has been credited with forecasting the cultural and religious context in which a 9/11-type incident could emerge. While he advocates tolerance and mutual understanding, he sees the West increasingly in conflict with Islam. Still, Huntington does not see the West and the Muslim world as currently engaged in a violent "clash of civilizations" and says he is "reasonably satisfied" with the present situation because it could have been far worse. Huntington also recognizes the sharp divisions among different varieties of Islam and different states and argues that the U.S. should try to accommodate their particular interests to the extent possible.

Huntington, 79, is Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor, Harvard. He was interviewed on August 18, 2006, while sitting under an apple tree in the back yard of his summer home on Martha's Vineyard. The interview was conducted by Mark O'Keefe, Associate Director, Editorial, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Read more on the Web site of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life--The Clash of Civilizations Revisited.

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