Globalization has brought much benefit to humanity. Except for a few failed states, such as Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan, the quality of life in most countries is better than a generation before. Many more people have access to healthcare, education, clean water, and improved sanitation.
But globalization has produced its own problems, side effects that threaten to undo the progress that has been made toward a unified global society that is free of the threat of war and destruction.
In fact, some results of globalization have the making of a new, potentially deadly confrontation between the modern Christian West and the failing Islamic world. This confrontation could derail the process of globalization and its promise of peace and prosperity for all.
As the civil wars in the Arab world demonstrate, one of today’s pressing problems is how the Christian West can constructively interact with a stagnating and increasingly angry Moslem world.
A part, perhaps the main part, of the predicament is that the core regions of these two religions have evolved in vastly different ways. On one side of the divide is the industrialized—therefore powerful—Christian West. At the other edge of the fissure is the home to the economically unsuccessful, demographically fast rising—therefore a hornets’ nest of unemployed and radicalized young men—Islamic belt.
The Christians pride themselves of highly-developed economies, social and legal advancement, religious evolution, and secular democracies.
In contrast, most Moslem leaders are oppressive, corrupt, and, in their treatment of heir people, often outright criminal. They rely on family and personal relations without the slightest desire to change their personalized management of the state into one that is based on law and institutionalized power.
Above all, these governments are illegitimate.
In his book, STATE BUILDING, Governance and World Order in the 21st century, Francis Fukuyama writes, “Sovereignty and therefore legitimacy [can] no longer be automatically conferred on the de facto power holder in a country.”
And here begins the dilemma.
As long as this socio-political misfortune of most Moslem peoples continues, the potential for civil wars and other forms of civil unrest will permanently hover over their heads. The resulting uncertainty hampers their development as private investors of large-scale projects will be hesitant to invest in those countries and the average living standards will continue to remain low. The insecurity about the future of these countries will also restrain the people’s thrust for change.
Sooner or later, this vicious circle will inevitably lead to disasters, impacting negatively international trade and finance. In view of the large cash reserves some Arab nations control and the purchasing power the Arab world has, this disruption could lead to major disruptions in the movement of money and goods.
Those illicit regimes also complicate official interactions with Western governments. Government’s in the Christian West have—and always had—the choice to disregard those unlawful regimes and work, to the extent possible, with the people. However, during colonial times and even after the collapse of colonialism, Western Governments preferred working with those illegitimate regimes.
In the case of the oil-rich countries of the Middle East, the reason for establishing cozy relations with the leaders of those countries was cheap and readily-available oil. In general however, it was easier to deal with often acquiescent leaderships in most of those countries, regardless of how they treated their own people.
The close cooperation of the Christian West with those illicit Moslem leaders continues to the present and constitutes in part the negative impression Moslems entertain of Christians.
This unfortunate situation is a phenomenon leading back to the dissolution of colonialism after World War II. Economic backwardness, shortage of jobs, and lack of human rights set in motion a trickle of immigration from the Moslem world to the bastions of Christianity in Europe and North America. Subsequently, continued economic decline, rapid population growth, and civil wars in the failing Islamic regions have swelled that trickle to a flood. Millions have left and continue to leave their unfortunate countries in search for peace, a better economic life, or simply freedom and dignity.
The second and third generation of children from immigrant parents born in the West, especially in Western Europe, has become alienated by the discrimination they experience in the countries they thought were theirs, too. However, the general populations in those nations didn’t agree with them and successfully kept them locked in in the poverty-stricken suburbs of major cities or kept them out of sight and mind along their social and physical periphery.
As the terror strikes in Paris and Brussels have clearly shown, some of those young Europeans of Middle Eastern or North African descent have succumbed to the false promise of terrorism. They have become what we now call “homegrown terrorists.”
The invasion of Iraq, civil wars in the Arab world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the way the Christian West reacted and continues to react to them have angered many Moslems and set off a number of horrific acts of terrorism perpetrated by Moslems.
These developments have hardened existing animosities between the believers of the two religions and the trend seems to move towards more explicit displays of antagonism.
If not prevented, a clash between Moslems and Christians could lead to social unrest within Western democracies. Millions of Moslems live in Europe and North America. Security in these countries would be threatened if relations between the two communities were to further deteriorate. This could lead to economic and financial disruptions and restrictions of civil liberties in the West, gravely injuring the freedoms we cherish and without which we cannot imagine life.
The North American and European democracies have gradually created peaceful multiethnic and multicultural societies. In this context, we should remember that accepting a pluralistic society does not demand from us that we abandon our identity or values. Pluralism does not mean that we surrender our values to create space for the newcomers’ identity. Pluralism involves acceptance and respect for the other’s values in clear acknowledgment and approval of our own.
The West must also remember that its Middle East policy has not been based on human values but on hard political realism that allowed it to colonize a large part of the world. That, however, was the policy of the past. At least that’s what I believe and hope many others do, too.
For the sake of peace and justice, the West must develop policies which openly disdain oppressive, corrupt, and inhuman regimes and press more openly and vigorously the interests of the peoples affected.
It is important that Moslems and Christians—especially Christians, for they are the more advanced and mature of the two group of believers—remember that in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society the insistence on the exclusive divine inimitability should remain a personal and private choice.
In the case of Islam, we can hope that this entitlement to godly exclusivity is somewhat enfeebled. Speaking of the “religions of the book,” the Koran affirms that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are god-given religions. However, for the sake of fairness, I must add that the Koran also claims that Islam is God’s last and final command to humanity.
I do not wish to argue which religion speaks “the Word of God” and which doesn’t. Neither do I believe in the view that God is the sole prerogative of any one religion.
What I wish to highlight here is:
First, no matter where we were born, what religion we inherited from our families, and how deeply we believe in our own religious and cultural values, there are others who have their own deeply-held cultural and religious significance, which they also hold covetously close to their hearts.
Second, whether we like it or not, people from all corners of this planet have moved away from their habitual home countries to new far-off places, places with different languages, cultures, and religions.
Third, this growing stream of humanity flowing from one part of the world to another is often triggered by economic consideration. It is the search for the chance to make more money to take better care of ones family. We are gradually, sometimes grudgingly, concluding that this river may not be stoppable. As long as the river does not grow to a destructive torrent, it doesn’t need to be stopped. It seems to benefits both sides.
In any event, we can’t undo what has developed over generations. Furthermore, today’s financial and economic interdependence leads to ever closer relations of people of different cultures and ethnicities.
We would do ourselves and the others among us a favor if we accepted this reality and opened our minds and hearts to all our neighbors no matter how they look, what God they worship, and, in fact, don’t worship any God at all.
Nasir Shansab has maintained homes, business interests and dual citizenship in both the United States and Afghanistan for the past three decades. To read more of his work, CLICK HERE NOW.
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