The tension between different groups is a common phenomenon or even a characteristic feature of human society. Many theories regarding the nature of these conflicts exist, but one of the most recent approaches to the problem was quite widely accepted in the academic and political arenas. According to this paradigm, which was thoroughly analyzed by Samuel Huntington, the modern world will be divided into civilizations rather than political or economic models.1 The clash of cultures is regarded as the primary peculiarity of the 21st century and a serious challenge yet to be addressed. The American society is also prone to this kind of conflict as it consists of the representative of diverse groups. The strain between American Muslims and American Christians is an illustration of the conflict of cultures. It has been approached differently by scholars, but no universal remedy exists. It is necessary to employ a combination of strategies and models to understand and meet the expectations of Muslims residing in the USA.
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Major Issues and Existing Approaches
One of the central issues contributing to the conflict between American Muslims and Christians is the focus of some groups on certain fundamental differences and ignorance of various similarities between their cultural traditions. Researchers suggest that many people are fixed on the ideas of the supremacy of their ideology and their goal to make others share their views.2 Religious fanatics concentrate and often distort particular texts and even ideas, which has tended to result in destruction and death. The modern instrument of attracting attention and postulating some ideas are terrorist attacks that enhance the tension. The 9/11 attack is one of these attempts both camps will never forget as both Muslims and Christians of the USA were affected dramatically.
Scholars, policymakers, and average citizens employ different methods to consider this challenge. Some also try to focus on their ideologies and emphasize their own supremacy. For instance, Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister, publicly insulted the Muslims and the entire Middle East. The politician claimed that Muslims had nothing to be called civilization or culture while the western world produced such grand figures as Mozart.3 It is noteworthy that he had to apologize publicly for his words, as this position led to an increase in conflicts between different groups in Italy.
Another perspective to utilize when addressing the issue is associated with knowledge sharing and effective interaction. It is essential to learn more about the two cultures and concentrate on the similar features rather than some differences. It is a part of the Islamic worldview to learn about various aspects of life and share their knowledge with the representatives of other cultures.4 Therefore, these people are open to other views on numerous social, cultural, political, and economic issues. However, it is critical to remain within the scope of secular topics. It is unacceptable for a Muslim to discuss some religious concepts or fundamental aspects of the essence of Islam with a non-Muslim person.5
It is also rather common that the representatives of both cultural doctrines try to focus on the past rather than the present. Some Muslims and Christians claim that their opponents are unable to change and embrace the new concepts of modernity. Christians accuse Muslims of being too rigid regarding their practices and traditions. At the same time, many Christians are still trying to oppose many advances in technology due to their focus on certain Christian values. Notably, Islam has been the dominant religion in the Middle East, where many nations with quite different cultural backgrounds exist. This religion became widespread due to its use of some basic principles of morality and its ability to be interpreted in diverse ways.6 This flexibility should be taken into account when considering the peculiarities of Muslims. People practicing Islam are ready to change and adjust to the ever-changing world.
When thinking about the needs of these people and the challenges they meet in the USA, it is important to pay attention to prejudice and stereotypes. The Western world has rather a distorted view of Islam and Muslims, which is the major source of tension and conflict between the two worlds. Historically, Western people had three ways of thinking regarding the Middle East.7 Since the 19th century, some saw Islam as the major reason for the decay of the Middle East or its slow development. Others concentrated on the resources the region was to offer and were guided by imperial interests. Some people also utilized religious doctrines of the Middle East to promulgate their own political, national, and other ideas and ideologies.
However, these three views lead nowhere as they enhance the conflict of interests and make people less cooperative. These views are also closely connected with the ideas of supremacy and the need to prove the inferiority of the opponent. In the 21st century, new perspectives should be employed, and the major emphasis should be placed on sharing knowledge and collaborating to address global problems. Numerous nations of the Middle East have lived in the area with specific environmental features that are much harder to accommodate compared to Europe. Hence, those people learned to deals with serious challenges, and their experience is valuable for humanity. Different nations of the Middle East managed to find ways to collaborate with their neighbors as they came up with the necessary interpretations of their religious beliefs.8 When addressing the Muslim population, it is important to mention their cultural, scientific, and economic achievements. Western people should also learn to initiate discussions based on the principles of equality and respect. Muslims may have a different perspective that will be valuable in searching for effective solutions to the current problems.
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It is important to make sure that the input of the Middle Eastern nations into the development of the western world is also acknowledged, mentioned, and cherished. Western policymakers are often ignorant of the cultural contribution of Muslims in the development of sciences, architecture, art, medicine, and other areas.9 Clearly, this attitude is inappropriate in the modern world, and it is vital to building on the similarities and mutual efforts to advance people’s knowledge of the world. Of course, it is still necessary to avoid discussing the essence of faith and some doctrines since religious debates can lead to attempts to protect one’s beliefs rather than raise people’s awareness.
When addressing Muslims, it is important to focus on such concepts as interaction, knowledge, progress, humanness, and universal moral values. Muslims are open to new knowledge and are willing to embrace new approaches that can bring progress and development. The representatives of the Middle East are also willing to exchange knowledge as this is the prerequisite of the evolution of entire humanity. Islam is the religion that teaches moral values that can be seen as universal and acceptable in any society, so the focus on these morals can bridge the existing gaps between Western people and Muslims. It is important to acknowledge that the past is full of mistakes made by both sides, and it is necessary to emphasize that modern people should never make the same mistakes.
Western policymakers should make it clear that they are aware of the priceless contribution of Islam and the Muslim population to the development of Western culture. The dialogue between the two cultures must be based on the principles of respect and collaboration. The discussion of the needs of these people and ways to address them can start with the discussion of the past examples of effective collaboration. The focus on similarities and progress can help people leave religious-based conflicts aside.
Eickelman, Dale F. The Middle East: An Anthropological Approach. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1989.
Qutb, Sayyid. “Islam as the Foundation of Knowledge.” In Modernist and Fundamentalist Debates in Islam: A Reader, edited by Mansoor Moaddel and Kamran Talattof, 197-206. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
Said, Edward W. “The Clash of Ignorance.” In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader, edited by Jason Dittmer and Joanne P. Sharp, 191-194. New York: Routledge, 2014.
- Edward W. Said, “The Clash of Ignorance,” in Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader, ed. Jason Dittmer and Joanne P. Sharp (New York: Routledge, 2014), 192.
- Said 193.
- Said 192.
- Sayyid Qutb, “Islam as the Foundation of Knowledge,” in Modernist and Fundamentalist Debates in Islam: A Reader, ed. Mansoor Moaddel and Kamran Talattof (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 202.
- Sayyid Qutb, “Islam as the Foundation of Knowledge,” 204.
- Dale F. Eickelman, The Middle East: An Anthropological Approach (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1989), 18.
- Dale F. Eickelman, The Middle East: An Anthropological Approach, 24-25.
- Dale F. Eickelman, The Middle East: An Anthropological Approach, 18.
- Sayyid Qutb, “Islam as the Foundation of Knowledge,” 202.