Clash of civilizations? No, thank you

Let’s focus on the clash of interests instead

The beheading of Samuel Paty and the knife attacks in Nice happened within a week. France is confronting, yet another time, a terrible nightmare that has cost hundreds of lives in the past years. Public eyes though have concentrated on the clash between Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On one side, the French president is presenting the situation like an ideological battle between good and evil, a clever way to “steal” the agenda of his far-right rival.

On the other side, the Turkish president is promoting “bread and circuses” to cover his inability in countering the economic downfall of his country.

In the middle, there are the “insignificant”, the ones that suffer death and poverty. Above their carcasses, the ones that explain the situation as “a clash of civilizations” rather than a clash of interests.

The horrifying attacks in France during the last week cannot be regarded as a widespread attack of Muslims towards the “western way of life” by any means. We have to do with a multilevel security issue related to radicalization and terrorism. There are specific Muslims who embrace the violent version of political Islam and commit heinous acts. The reasons that radicalize them in this direction are within our “Western” societies and not only in the “Islamic” ones.

Of course, instead of discussing about these reasons and how to deal with them, there is a disorienting discussion about a West-Islam conflict in an imaginary value framework that everyone draws according to their selfish -or non-selfish- ideological purposes. The aspiring leaders and spokesmen of each side not only do the same but also they don’t have the slightest political influence to represent such huge populations.

This logic though is as old as 1992 when Samuel Huntington expressed it. According to the “The Clash of Civilizations?” the primary source of conflicts after the ideological war of the Cold War will be religions and cultures.

After 28 years, there is still not enough evidence to say that this is true (it’s a post-Cold War prediction after all). We are talking about political groups with interests. France, Turkey, ISIS and Al-Qaeda are all actors who pursue goals regardless of the religion or culture they claim to represent. We are talking about actors who seek power in the context of political competition. From the break-up of Yugoslavia to the recent rekindling of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh, interest and power politics are the main sources of conflicts and not religions and cultures.

Even if the “clash of civilizations” logic is dismantled, what do we really get out of all this?

The result, sadly, is that political conflicts intensify and expand on a cultural level. At the same time, the mob is fanatical and the intolerant racists are rubbing their hands. In the meantime, ordinary people in “Western” and “Islamic” societies will continue to die or continue to live in conditions of deprivation.