17 June 2002
Proponents of the US-led war against terrorism have been careful to point out that Islam is not their enemy.
But because the principal target of the campaign is Osama bin Laden, who is said to have masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks, terrorism has mistakenly become synonymous with the Islamic faith. Islam has become the subject of hate campaigns and Muslim communities in different parts of the world have experienced varying degrees of harassment, such as police raids.
The repercussions of Sept. 11 hew closely to those of the Cold War, where the Soviet Union was the perceived evil to the western world. In the new war, Muslim civilization has taken on the role of the villain. Political kibitzers insinuate that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US must find a new enemy to legitimize its claim to power. The anti-terrorism campaign, for example, legitimizes the US Government's military involvement in countries it believes are infested with terrorists. The new schism brings to mind Samuel Huntington's thesis, which he posited almost ten years ago: the clash of civilizations.
Social scientists have expressed their concern about civilizational conflict resulting in the West antagonizing and alienating further the Third World countries, particularly Islamic countries. University of Innsbruck Professor Hans Koechler, in his lecture in UP recently, said "Regrettably, the doctrine of civilizational clashes as the basic factor of international relations in the post-Cold War period revives and reinforces the former colonialist pattern of Western supremacy, including cultural superiority, over the rest of the world."
As the threats of civilizational conflict vis-a-vis globalterrorism seem to loom larger and clearer by the day, what will emerge as a counter-violence configuration is highly anticipated. Not a few social scientists and political analysts have forwarded a number of approaches. For its part, the UP Alumni Association (UPAA), during its council meeting on June 14, 2002, presented a forum on Peace and Tolerance through Inter-Civilizational dialogue> Discussants were Dr. Carolina Hernandez, professor at the UP Diliman Department of Political Science; Dr. Edilberto de Jesus, president of the Far Eastern University; and Datu Atty. Michael Mastura, former congressman of Mindano.
President Nemenzo, who was invited to make some remarks on the theme of the discussion, said dialogue has become "a fashionable mode of conflict resolution. It resembles peace talks between warring factions." Participants in a dialogue, however, Nemenzo added, are not necessarily at war. As a matter of fact, he said, the participants may hold the same interests that they are fighting for.
De Jesus, Hernandez and Mastura were one in saying that peace and tolerance between and among nation-states are attainable through dialogue. But, they added, dialogue may be possible more on the intercultural exchange and not on the inter-civilizational level. Hernandez said the key to solving conflicts is cultural accommodation.
Mastura explained that civilization encompasses political, economic and legal systems, while culture embraces philosophy, religion and the arts. He said it is easier for nation-states to discuss their cultural peculiarities and respect each other's difference. but when it comes to political assumptions underlying certain policies being implemented by nation-states, tolerance may be difficult to achieve. Needless to say, it is in the political assumptions where vested interests lie. Mastura cited as an example the Philippine government's decision to shift its allegiance from Europe to America when the latter began to accumulate power and influence.
In the case of the September 11 attacks, Nemenzo said these could not have had the nature and objectives of a religious crusade. He said that if the attacks had anything to do with religion, the terrorists could have razed the Vatican to the ground. That bin Laden chose to assault the world's political and economic supercop, Nemenzo said, readily revealed the terrorist's real motive: to claim power.
Cognizant of the ill effects of civilizational conflict, the UPAA resolved to support the UP administration in enriching its research activities that are focused on civilizational studies. Research findings will be disseminated tot he public through symposia and conferences.
Reprinted from the UP Newsletter, 06/17/02