What is meant by clash of civilization if it is to be blame for the uptick of terrorism today?


P. Huntington is one of the key writers/pioneers on clash of civilization. He
projected that the greatest source of division among people and nations will be
cultural identity (Huntington, 2011). In his argument, he indicated strongly
that, the world will witness clash of civilization between the Western
civilization and other major civilization particularly the Islamic civilization
(Kennedy, 2013). He opined that, this type of conflict will take over the
state-to-state conflict ad those witnessed in the cold war era. Huntington
predicted would be an inevitable part of the post-Cold War world. At the time
Huntington putting up this hypothesis, the Gulf War was still fresh in the
minds of most Americans as noted by Douglas and Wentz (n.d).

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Neumayer and Plumper (2008) support the
view that conflicts between civilizations struggling for influence on a new
world order pose the greatest danger for international stability and peace
after the end of the Cold War. The above assertion constitutes the major themes
of Huntington’s famous and best-selling book “The Clash of Civilizations”. The major gaps in literature according to Neumayer
and Plumper are that, scholarly work tested Huntington’s theoretical
predictions has focused exclusively on patterns of militarized inter-state
dispute, inter-state and civil wars but not the widely known terrorism. There
is however, a scholarly debate as to whether clash of civilization is to be
blame for the upsurge of terrorism in recent times. The focus of this study
therefore attempts to find evidence for a clash of civilizations in the midst
of the rising incidents of terrorism. The remaining section of the extract is
structured as follow: definition and analysis of clash of civilization and also
attempt to analyse whether the phenomenon can be blamed for the increase in
terrorism in the world today. The paper finally attempts to draw key conclusion
to inform policy.


1.2 The Clash of Civilizations

The concept has
been defined various by different authors. Civilization according to Huntington
(2011) is the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of
cultural identity people have short of that which distinguished humans from
other species. It is defined both by common objective elements, such as
language, history, religion, customs, institutions, and by the subjective
self-identification of people (Norris and Inglehart, 2002).
Civilization may involve a large number of people or a very small group such as
the Anglophone Caribbean (Huntington, 2011) or Latin American and Arab
civilizations among others. It is also good to note that, civilizations
obviously blend and overlap, and may include sub-civilizations as opined by

identity will be increasingly important in the future, and the world will be
shaped in large measure by the interactions among seven or eight major
civilizations. These include Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu,
Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African civilization.

Clash of civilizations’ theory first
came to prominence in Huntington’s 1993 Foreign Affairs article entitled ‘The
Clash of Civilizations’. The writer pointed out that, major conflicts that will
emerge after the Cold War are likely to be cultural but not ideological or
economic as use to be the case. The clash of civilization thesis advances three
major claims. Huntington proclaimed as follows:

That ‘culture matters’; in particular
that contemporary values in different societies are path-dependent, reflecting
long-standing legacies associated with core ‘civilizations’ (Norris
and Inglehart, 2002). Where the concept of civilization is taken to mean same
as reflected above but sees religion as the central defining element even
though there may be sub-divisions.

That there are
sharp cultural differences between the core political values common in
societies of Western Christian heritage or belief and the beliefs common in the
rest of the world, especially Islamic societies. The pioneer opined that the
feature that distinguishes the West from Islam concerns the values associated
with representative democracy. Thus Muslims tend to prefer “strong leadership
and rule by traditional religious authorities to the democratic values of
pluralistic competition, political participation, and political rights and
civil liberties” (Norris and Inglehart, 2002: pg4).

He finally argues
that “the important and long-standing differences in political values based on
predominant religious cultures will lead to conflict between and within
nation-states, with the most central problems of global politics arising from
an ethno-religious ‘clash” (Norris and Inglehart, 2002: pg4). Based
on the above prognosis, he predicted that the most important conflicts of the future will occur along
the fault lines separating these civilizations as indicated above.

1.3 Can it be blame for
the uptick of terrorism today

of Huntington’s theory believe that the uptick of terrorism today is the
manifestation of clash of civilization. Some scholars believe that Human Beings
are divided according to cultural lines however; it is difficult to have
universal civilization. Instead, the cultural blocks each within its own values
constitute a major group. Therefore one can expect a strong clash between Islam
and the West given the legacy of 14th Century conflict. The nature
of such conflict may stem from similarities in the aspirations of the two
groups of civilizations as universalistic and missionary with some fundamental
differences in their culture and believe systems. He was of the view that Islam
is synonymous to the religion of the sword with some strange believes that make
cohabitation with other religions difficult.

and Wentz (n.d) further suggested that people tend to mixed up, merge or see
culture and religion as one word. Thus, with the number of different religious
and cultural beliefs that are present in the world it is only natural that
cultures conflict and contradict each other. 
Unfortunately, these cultural clashes are often the underlying bases for
international confrontation, more specifically terrorism. A practical
onset of Samuel Huntington’s ‘clash of civilizations’ between two cultural
entities: the ‘Christian West’ and the ‘Islamic world’ (Huntington, 2013). A
good example is the al-Qaeda terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden. This
group is responsible for the September 11th attacks on the United
States, which killed thousands of innocent Americans. The 19 hijackers
responsible for the attacks belonged to the al-Qaeda terrorist network from
Afghanistan led by Osama
bin Laden. Their main objective is to rid Muslim countries of Western
influence and replace their governments with fundamentalist Islamic regimes. Also,
recently, events such as the bombings in Bali, Madrid and London were
interpreted by many as striking evidence for Huntington’s paradigm (The Clash
of Civilization). These incidents attracted a wide attention on Huntington’s

analysts explained that, the terrorists who were involved took part in these
attacks due to their resentment toward the United States and the growth of
Western influence and power which is traceable to the civilization hypothesis
predicted in 1993. 


to Dunn (2006), since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent declaration
of a US-led ‘war on terror’, the spectre of a ‘clash of civilizations’ between
‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ has frequently loomed. Mandangu also showed evidence
that, since 9/11 attacks, variety of other terrorist attacks ranging from
Morroco to Nepal, India to Indonesia, Spain to Saudi Arabia, etc. where US
Authorities have been worried.

faith and religion go hand in hand, especially when you begin to examine the
teaching of multiple groups (Douglas and Wentz, n.d). They again opined that,
cultures conflict and contradict each. These cultural clashes are often the
underlying bases for international confrontation, more specifically
terrorism.  This phenomenon of different
groups establishing cultural dominance in the world through terrorism has
especially been an issue in the Middle East, causing this region in the world
to remain in the international spotlight.

of this can also be found in the Gulf War was still fresh in the minds of most
Americans.  The most poignant issues at
the time were the threat of Suddam Hussein, nuclear weapons, and the
establishment of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Also months later, the
World Trade Center was bombed, which left six people dead and many more
injured.  These events were perhaps the
beginning of Huntington’s hypothesis: “the principal conflicts of global
politics will occur between nations and different groups of civilizations”

a world where many global issues stem from opposing nations and/or cultures,
proves to be relevant


1.5 Conclusion

the analysis presented so far, the relevance of Huntington’s hypothesis in
global terrorism cannot be overemphasized. This is the case because; the
September 11 attack is seen to many as a good demonstration of the clash
between the Western civilization (Christians) and the Islamic fundamentalists. Norris
and Inglehart (2002) also support this view when they attributed to the root
cause of the attack to the civilization clash. Also judging from his statement
which suggests a linkage
between ‘Islamic civilization’ and violence- one can reach a firm conclusion
on the rise of terrorism. Violence
has also been reported between Muslims, and Orthodox Serbs in the Balkans, Jews
in Israel, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Burma and Catholics in the
Philippines. On this basis, it is conclusive to say that the clash
between the different civilizations has brought about the increase in the
number of terrorist attacks the world is witnessing in recent times.


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