CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS?
Statement by the International Progress Organization on events in France and the future of multiculturalism in Europe
Vienna, 9 January 2015,
The International Progress Organization strongly and unequivocally condemns the use of violence for political or religious purposes. Everyone will agree in the condemnation of acts of terrorism such as this week's attacks in Paris. However, one should also address the deeper divisions and contradictions in Europe's multicultural societies. The freedom of the press is not absolute; it does not include the right to deride or ridicule religion and it must be based on respect of human dignity. As with the earlier cartoon crisis in Denmark: one must be aware that the deliberate use of media to provoke faith-based communities will poison the social climate and contribute to an atmosphere of distrust and mutual hatred. This, of course, does not excuse violent reactions such as those in Paris; but journalists, including those who use jokes and irony to express their point of view, should be aware of their social responsibility. There can be no peace without mutual respect, first and foremost among people with different worldviews, whether religious or secular.
One should also be aware that the jihadi violence did not come out of the blue. The Western powers in particular have (a) for a long time supported jihadi groups and used them for their geopolitical agenda, and (b), through their policy of "regime change," they have created the political vacuum in which these groups are flourishing. One should not be surprised about the backlash in Europe.
The tragic events and the reaction to them are a bad omen for the future. The political systems in Europe will become more and more unstable if the governments and the dominant media refuse to acknowledge that these acts of violence are not isolated incidents, but happen in a framework of increasing alienation and confrontation between the religious and cultural communities. This development is further accelerated by the large-scale military engagement of Western powers in the Muslim world - because of (a) the destruction of the social fabric in these countries and (b) the creation of hatred among the affected populations. The situation in Europe is further aggravated because inter-religious tensions are increasingly being exploited for the sake of party politics. This may trigger a never-ending cycle of hatred and violence, and make the "clash of civilizations" a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Focusing on the tragic events in Europe, one should not forget, however, that these past days Boko Haram slaughtered many hundreds of innocent people in Baga town and neighbouring villages in Nigeria.
This is indeed a challenging time for all who are committed to dialogue. Denial of reality will completely erode the basis of Europe's official multicultural credo. What is most needed now are voices of reason that are able to cross the cultural divide - even in a situation where emotions obstruct rational thinking of political and civil society leaders on all sides.