Katie Pace Said’s Response to Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” Edward Said’s primary problem with Huntington’s article, “The Clash of Civilizations”, is Huntington’s simplified treatment of the world’s civilizations. Huntington defines a civilization as a “cultural entity” of which “the composition and boundaries” change. He admits that “civilizations are dynamic; they rise and fall; they divide and merge”. Yet, throughout his article, Huntington treats civilizations as static entities with easily delineated boundaries and easily defined characteristics. Huntington first fault is his simplified division of the world’s civilizations into eight groups, ignoring the subtleties and intricacies of civilizations. Are Bosnian Muslims Slavic-Orthodox or Islamic? Are Roman Catholic Croatians Slavic-Orthodox or Western? Why is South America, conquered and populated by Western Europeans, not part of the Western civilization? Furthermore, if lines of conflict are determined by different civilizations, how does Huntington account for warring among members of the same civilizations throughout the world, from Eastern Europe to Africa the Middle East? As Said says in his paper, “The Clash of Ignorance”, a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance is involved in presuming to speak for a whole religion or civilization”. Huntington’s second fault is his one-sided approach to globalization. Huntington argues that interaction between different civilizations increases awareness of both cultural differences and similarities, yet he emphasizes only the negative result of this awareness, “animosity”. Said prefers to emphasize the rich exchanges result from interaction. Throughout history, civilizations have engaged in material and cultural commerce. By the eighth or ninth centuries AD, a vast trading network connected Africa, the Middles East, India, China and the Mediterranean region. Mathematicians, scientists, astronomers, philosophers and artists engaged in intellectual exchanges for centuries. By the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire had extended their rule into Northern Africa, all of Southern Europe and as far north as Hungary. As Said wrote, “the West drew on the humanism, science, philosophy, sociology and historiography of Islam.” This exchange is not a phenomenon of the West and Islam. It has occurred throughout the world, and its effects have not been, as Huntington seems to argue, solely increased awareness of differences. Instead, interactions of different peoples merged and changed civilizations in ways that made them impossible to easily separate and label. Today’s globalization is only increasing this exchange, and animosity is not the necessary result. Greater understanding and acceptance of differences is as plausible a consequence. So too is increased homogenization. Ideally, instead of homogenization, peoples would incorporate elements of other civilizations into their own while maintaining their diversity. This would not be a new occurrence, as history is the story of a continuous blending of cultures. This is not to say that globalization will eliminate conflict, but it is important to consider more than one consequence of increased contact between cultures. Huntington also maintains that globalization is separating people from their local and national identities, and religion is filling the vacuum. Might a separation from local boundaries not entail an increased global connection and the further blurring of already blurry cultural fault lines? Huntington says, “A civilization is the highest cultural grouping of people…the broadest level of identification with which [a person] identifies”. Because identities change, so do civilizations; yet, Huntington doesn’t address the many effects of weakening traditional identities on civilizations. Instead, he simplifies the results of globalization into “a revival of religion”. Huntington’s discussion of religion is as basic as his discussion of civilizations. We are entering a period of strife between Islam and Christianity, he claims. Said attacks Huntington’s use of “unedifying labels like Islam and the West” and of his “unilateral decision made to draw lines in the sand, to undertake crusades, to oppose their evil with our good”. Such labels draw awareness to our differences and prevent us from reflecting on the “interconnectedness of innumerable lives” and the diversity that exists within religions. The Middles East is as heterogeneous a region as the Christian world. Said’s reference to Eqbal Ahmad of Pakistan’s weekly, Dawn, is only one example of the diversity of Muslim beliefs and practices. Ahmad attacks religious fundamentalism as “concerned with power, not with the soul…theirs is a very limited and time-bound political agenda”. Ahmad emphasizes that generalized labels of Islam make it impossible “to recognize the Islamic—religion, society, culture, history or politics—as lived and experienced by Muslims throughout the ages.” He gives the meaning of the word jihad as an example. Today, the Western world interprets jihad as a holy war, the armed struggle against the non-Muslim world for the purpose of protecting and spreading the Muslim religion. However, jihad can refer to an individual’s inner struggle to follow Mohamed’s path or to religious and political protest within a Muslim nation. Huntington presents numerous convincing arguments to support his belief that today’s conflicts are determined by civilizations and no longer by ideologies or economics. He cites examples of religious fighting, the “kin-country syndrome”, increased economical regionalism, and an Islamic-Confucian military connection. Regardless of the validity of his points, Said attacks Huntington’s explanation of current international affairs as “the West versus the rest”. The West is experiencing a period of military and economic dominance, and many weaker and poorer nations do resent western hegemony. But to present Western interests as always incompatible with the interests of the rest of the world, to place the West in a state of perpetual disagreement with the non-West, is to condemn the West and Islam to a future devoid of mutual understanding and compromise. Huntington writes, “Western concepts differ fundamentally from those prevalent in other civilizations”. He ignores both any parallels between the West and the rest of the world and the fundamental differences between other civilizations that would inhibit the formation of what he portrays as a worldwide collation of diverse peoples against the West. Huntington concludes his article with a discussion of the West’s long-term goals. He claims that non-Western nations’ “economic and military strength relative to the West will increase” as these nations modernize. Consequently, the West will have to “accommodate these non-Western modern civilizations whose values and interests differ significantly from those of the West” by developing “an understanding of the basic religious and philosophical assumptions underlying other civilizations and the ways in which people in those civilizations see their interests”. Said would agree with Huntington’s opinion that civilizations “will have to learn to coexist with others”, and he would agree that mutual understanding between civilizations is essential to harmonious coexistence. However, he would argue that Huntington’s approach to international affairs makes this understanding impossible. His generalized labels and portrayal of the West as a superpower now on the defensive against the rest of the world is, according to Said, “better for reinforcing defensive self-pride than for critical understanding of the bewildering interdependence of our time”.