Fez - Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), one of the most important and influential Islamist thinkers, shared Huntington's thesis that states that ideologies and economics are not sources of conflict in this “new world.” Rather, he claims that culture will be the major source of division and conflict between humankind.
Fez – Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), one of the most important and influential Islamist thinkers, shared Huntington’s thesis that states that ideologies and economics are not sources of conflict in this “new world.” Rather, he claims that culture will be the major source of division and conflict between humankind.
According to this thesis, a “Clash of Civilizations” will dominate global politics. In this worldview, the centerpiece of international relations “becomes the interaction between the West and non-Western civilizations and among non-Western civilizations. Sayyid Qutb believed that ideological conflicts such as the Cold War are no longer relevant. He argued that the real conflict was between Islam and the Western world. Nevertheless, he addressed the “Clash of Civilizations” thesis long before Samuel P. Huntington did in 1992. He claimed that the West and its values represent a tremendous threat to Islam and Muslims.
The Qaida network, held responsible for the attacks of September 11, sparked a deep hatred towards its old supporters in the West. Ironically, the network owes its power to the West itself. Nevertheless, it is extremely important for the future of international relations to understand the roots of this blind hatred.
According to Huntington, civilizations will clash for six important reasons: First, civilizations have real and basic differences. They differ in their history, language, culture, tradition, and religion. People from different civilizations do not share the same views and values. Secondly, these differences have become easier to distinguish and observe because of the advances in communication technologies. The world has become a smaller place where civilizations are interacting increasingly more. Thirdly, “the processes of economic modernization and social change throughout the world are separating people from longstanding local identities. They also weaken the nation state as a source of identity. In much of the world religion has moved in to fill this gap, often in the form of movements that are labeled ‘fundamentalist.’”
Fourth, “the growth of civilization consciousness is enhanced by the dual role of the West.” Although the West is at the apex of its power, non-Western civilizations are returning to their roots. Fifth, “cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones.” Moreover, religion discriminates more than ethnicity. Finally, there is a considerable growth in economic regionalism. Although the success of economic regionalism strengthens civilization- consciousness, its success depends on its rooting in a common civilization. 
Furthermore, Huntington argues that because people define their identity in terms of ethnicity and religion, they emphasize an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ relationship between themselves and other ethnic groups or religions. Moreover, cultural and religious differences create policy differences. These differences may range from human rights to immigration to trade and commerce and the environment.
In this regard, Huntington states:
Most important, the efforts of the West to promote its values of democracy and liberalism as universal values, to maintain its military predominance and to advance its economic interests engender countering responses from other civilizations. Decreasingly able to mobilize support and form coalitions on the basis of ideology, governments and groups will increasingly attempt to mobilize support by appealing to common religion and civilization identity.
According to Huntington, quarrels along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilizations have been going on for thirteen-hundred years. This age-old military interaction between the West and Islam is unlikely to end; in fact, it could become more dangerous. The Gulf War of 1990-91 made some Arabs feel proud that Saddam Hussein had challenged Israel and the West. It also left many Arabs feeling shamed and offended by the West’s military presence in the Persian Gulf, the West’s overpowering military supremacy, and the Arabs’ obvious incapacity to control their own future. Thus, the most important divergence or focus of con?ict in the near future is between the West and the Confucian-Islamic states.
By the same token, according to Sayyid Qutb, the West in its various forms, capitalist or communist, is materialistic. He argues that the real and deep struggle is between Islam on one hand and the West on the other. For him, Islam is the true force that resists the universal threat of Western materialism. It is Islam that holds the universal, comprehensive and harmonious perception regarding existence and life. Moreover, it is Islam that changes struggle and conflict into social solidarity in the human sphere. Furthermore, it is Islam that gives life a religious origin that links it to its creator in heaven and controls its worldly tendencies so that it does not realize purely material goals, even though productive material activity is a form of worship in Islam.
Sayyid Qutb argues that it is obvious that the real struggle in the future will be between materialism and Islam. For Qutb, it is an ideological conflict. He says “the conflict will be between the system which gives veneration (ubudiyyah) to God alone and makes people turn from serving humans to serving God alone and the other systems in the world which are based on the veneration (ubudiyyah) of servants to servants.” Moreover, he argues that the West is aware of this phenomenon and is unanimous in repressing all Islamic revivalist movements. The West is then prepared to wage total war against Islam.
Sayyid Qutb then considers the West as a threat. For him, the West is the enemy of Islam and not merely of Islamism. He argues that “the movements for the revival of Islam are scattered throughout the whole earth and they challenge Crusaderism right in its lair, in the heart of America and Europe they are rousing themselves in Asia and Africa in spite of all devices and arrangements devised by Crusaderism and Zionism to try and crush them.” On the other hand, Sayyid Qutb claims that Islam is the true solution to the problems of the West. It can offer humanity complete human cooperation and sound social solidarity.
Thus, both thinkers predicted a civilizational clash between the West and Islam. It is next important to assess the differences between Western and Islamic civilizations. “The resurgence of Islam has challenged many of the presuppositions and expectations of development theory.” Unlike Western political theories, the modernization of Islamic states did not achieve the secularization of state and society. Most Muslim populations rejected secularism. According to John Esposito, the study of modernization in Islam is frequently burdened with unnecessary dichotomies: tradition versus innovation, Islamism versus modernism, stagnation versus evolution and growth. Western analysis and Islamic secularism view Islam as a major hindrance to viable change in Muslim politics and societies.
Nonetheless, Islamists believe in the eternal relevance and validity of Islam. A major element in the debate of modernizing politics is the tradition of Islam. Nevertheless, neo-traditionalists such as Sayyid Qutb and Mawlana Mawdudi consider Islam to be God’s alternative to Western capitalism and its materialism and secularism. Although they reject westernization, they advocate selective modernization. “Western science and technology are to be appropriated cautiously and ‘Islamized’; however, Western values and mores are rejected, for Islam has its own answers for human kind.”
On the other hand, reformers such as Ali Shariati are ‘Western educated but Islamically oriented.’ They advocate an Islamic modernization based on Islamic history and values. Although they learn from the West, they do not desire to westernize Muslim society. Although lslamists advocate that Islam is democratic through the principles of consultation and consensus, they differentiate between Islamic and Western democracies. While Western political ideology is centered on humankind, the Islamic one is centered on God. This orientation includes guidelines and limits; sovereignty belongs to God alone and the Shariah is law. All additional or supplementary laws and state policies must be formulated within the limits of the Shariah; that is, they may not contradict it. Therefore, legislation is not based solely on the popular will. Actions proscribed by the Quran and Sunnah can never be introduced, no matter how popular.
The rejection by some Islamists of democracy is usually caused by the rejection of dependency on the West. Nevertheless, their acceptance of democracy is dependent on its concordance with the Quran. Hence, Shireen Hunter argues that the conflict between the West and Islamism is not so much about the political procedure needed to guarantee popular involvement and consultation. Instead, she claims that it is about the sources of law and ethics. For the Islamists, the basic laws and ethical code of Islam are godly, everlasting, and thus unalterable. For the Western secularists, the individual and society are the source of law. Thus, if the Western world were to view the universal application of its secular political model as an essential interest, then the Islamists’ objective of creating an Islamic polity and society would indeed be a threat to the West.
Furthermore, Hunter argues that according to most Western scholars and analysts, there is a fundamental divergence at an ideological and philosophical level between the notion of a society and state based on and ruled by Islamic law, and the secularism and liberal democratization of the West. The idea of mixing religion and politics, which is the essence of Islamism, contradicts Western secular philosophy. As a consequence, the Islamist objective of establishing an Islamic society and state is against the Western objective of spreading democracy and human rights. While Neo-Orientalists consider Islam as incompatible with democracy, Neo-Third-Worldists argue for the possibility of creating an Islamic version of democracy.
The issue discussed here depends on how we define democracy. Neo-Orientalists define democracy as a secular system of government, where law and political legitimacy are the products of the will of the population. In addition, the state guarantees the principle of ‘natural law’ which is the source of individual rights. In this sense, many Islamists consider democracy to be blasphemy and an enemy of Islam. On the other hand, Neo-Third-Worldists do not equate democracy with secularism. Instead, they advocate the participatory and consultative aspects of democracy which is similar to and in accordance with the Islamic principle of Shura.
Thus from the forgoing analyses, it seems that both trends advocate the same attitude, vís-a-vís the other sects, which conspicuously explains the current friction. A friction that should be interpreted and implemented for the safety and development of cultures, as Edward Said in his eloquent article, advocated “Worldliness” or Homy Bhabha through his “binarim”: East/ West, Black/White. These two theoreticians tried to bridge the gap and advocated the hybridity, liminal space, and third setting where cultures enter into face-to-face negotiation.
 Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuster, p. 159.
 Ibid, 161.
 Ibid, 161.
 Ibid, 161.
 Ibid, 163.
 Ibid, 167.
 William Shepard, Sayyid Qutb and Islamic Activism: a translation and critical analysis of Social Justice in Islam, Leiden.
 Ibid, 351.
 Ibid, 353.
 John Esposito, Islam and Politics, Syracus University Press, 1984.
Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.