By Mohamed Lahmidi
By Mohamed Lahmidi
Rabat – As to the specificity of the theory of “clash of civilizations” as a theoretical or conceptual background of this paper, I tend to look into Elmandjra’s cultural communication as a theoretical and moral alternative advocating humanity as a value rather than Huntington’s reductionism that is mainly based on political reasons/interests.
According to Elmandjra, Judeo-Christian Civilization should stop imposing its own system of values on the “Other” or on other civilizations, most notably on the Muslim World. To that end, the only way to avoid cultural conflicts or clashes of value systems is cultural communication. People need to communicate, respect each other’s systems and cultural diversity as the international community has no choice but survives together. In this regard, Elmandjra insists on the importance of “cultural communication” as a broad philosophical horizon that seeks interaction so as to preclude any sort of war over values to a greater extent.
It is worthwhile considering that this kind of cultural communication calls for jettisoning what is known as the “master narrative” that unmistakably entails a great deal of egocentrism. The line of inquiry here does focus on the elements of prejudice, stereotypization, and oversimplification as far as the concept of Otherness is concerned. As an epistemological effort in this direction, the relationship between the West and the Muslim World needs to be tackled within the context of the intellectual dormancy which has recently beguiled a large number of the Western elites, particularly in politics and media where a culture of hasty pigeonholing dominated.
Samuel Huntington’s thesis had unfortunately consolidated the language of oversimplification vis-à-vis cultural issues known by thorny and complex magnitude. The above-mentioned category commands a deep pondering as it largely contributes to widening the gap between the West and the Muslim World. In my view, such theory is a kind of a misleading attempt on his part because it is based on futile prefabricated dichotomies/duos. Such short-sighted reading, with respect to cultural issues, shall not but make the situation more complex and critical between the two worlds. Samuel Huntington’s analysis is purely political and it involves a great deal of de-contextualization and antagonism.
Not surprisingly, this theory is largely discredited by many serious and committed intellectuals and scholars belonging to the West and the Muslim World. This thesis is forthrightly based on egocentric, political, and ideological assumptions which have been translated into a popular discourse that is gaining ground. As a scholar, Elmandjra’s undertaking is to unmask the inconsistency, un-scientificity, and shallowness of such theory full of personal impressions, historical and epistemological fallacies. In this connection, the circles of intellect, art, and media are strongly called for attacking/dismantling the bastions of a uni-polar ideology and conservatism which tend to highlight the “universal moral truth” of the Western epistemological system, especially in a world characterized by cultural diversity/plurality.
Following the events of 9/11, political and military decision-makers had been provided with rational sources and arguments; so to speak, to uphold any military action against the “Other” (Muslim) in the name of a loose concept commonly called “terrorism”. This discourse of war is colored by an unconvincingly flimsy moral argumentation. It has been largely solidified by ready-made molds, clichés, consumed metaphors, and writings which are suggestive of mental indolence and inertia. Unfortunately, this militarization of culture seems to be based on the Darkness and Enlightenment dialectic. Such a barren compartmentalization apparently bears the stamp of physical and symbolic violence vis-à-vis the Other’s existence.
It is worthwhile noting that Mahdi Elmandjra was the first to speak of civilizational war, but his prophecy can be considered as a sort of warning that should not be misconstrued because it is a motive for working towards peace rather than war as propounded by Samuel Huntington. Elmandjra is so optimistic and a believer in the power of volition/will, for this reason; he has been making efforts to promote communications through a fund he has set up to honour people working to bring different cultures together. His theory of cultural communication represents a cornerstone of a better world based on productive intellectual exchange and interaction. The whole world is called upon to concentrate efforts on building bridges of communication and contact. Humanity has to direct its efforts intensely on identifying a possible area of coexistence and cooperation.
The relation between the Muslim World and the West should be studied within the framework of history and geography through considering all the ideological, political and economic factors at play. The structural obstacles to peace and communication need to be removed, taking into account historical context and cultural specificities. It is so important to stress the fact that Elmandjra challenges any simplistic perspective that considers both Islamic and Western civilizations as fixed entities with no internal dynamics/capacity to interact with each other. To him, it is only a matter of attitude/mindset that should be changed in the hope of reinforcing understanding and interdependence which are undoubtedly the necessary groundwork of our time. Despite existing aspects of conflict and disharmony, Elmandjra focuses on the existence of promising prospects of a better future. He is also trying to convey that Islam and the West are not doomed by necessity to perpetual conflict and clash.
Elmandjra’s paradigm seeks to shake “the collective frame of reference” of the two entities where the culture of stereotyping seems to be corroborated and endorsed. For this particular reason, the mental and psychological structures need also to be examined in the hope of comprehending the nature of this complex/synthetic relationship that exists between the two worlds.
Our task is to rethink the premises upon which theories of “clash of civilizations” are predicated depending on the ethical horizon of cultural communication put forward by Mahdi Elmandjra. By the same token, it is our commitment to identify ways and means of interchange and interaction that should be explored in the relationship between the West and the Muslim World. By relying on cultural communication formula, the objective is to deconstruct the implicit assumptions that underlie this divide between the Muslim World and the West and try to come up with a clear diagnosis of the state of coexistence between them. In this regard, everybody is called upon to stop looking at the Muslim world as a block defined by faith and the West as a block defined in spatial terms.
All in all, Mahdi Elmandjra has been working toward expounding the epistemological obstacles that prevent Westerners and Muslims from achieving lucidity as far as the image of the “Other” is concerned. His thesis tends to come up with a hermeneutics of interaction, cross-fertilization, and cultural interchange which could help us pinpoint the barriers that impede communication between the two worlds because a “symbiosis” between Islam and the West is not completely impossible and can take place provided both parties succeed in mapping a translucent mental roadmap marked by cultural communication. Elmandjra’s perspective of cultural communication could help us break out of the prison of deterministic and positivistic philosophy by undertaking an itinerary of research, discovery and communication.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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