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reality and nature of the clash paradigm, provided a preventive approach to the international relations, laying down the basic ground for the establishment of a civilizational dialogue. This chapter, therefore, comes to further highlight the major shortcomings and key conditions for the sustenance of dialogue among cultures and civilizations of different peoples and nations.
1- A primary recipe for dialogue among civilizations
Taking a step toward an effective international dialogue requires that all participants share a set of primary conditional commonalities. These preliminaries include having a pure will, common references, and democracy whose function is to establish justice and equality among the “Us” and the “others” all together
a- Pure will
The will which bring about actions and motivates a nation to take an initiative toward a civilizational goal is the cornerstone to maintain understanding. Having borne in mind that dialogue among nations should be directed toward a humanistic goal that is coexistence and not further suppression or denial, all humanistic and peace activists must believe in the ability of Man to manage conflict and bring about peace. In other words, all of us must get rid of the assumption that considers conflict a historical fact and the secret behind survival. In fact, such a pessimistic hypothesis does nothing but brings death and found the theoretical basis of conflict. During
the cold war, the motto which was raised is the Roman slogan “si vis pacem para bellum” (In English “if you want peace, prepare for war”). Yet, as peace became a basic necessity, that motto should be altered to become: “si vis pacem, para pacem” (In English: “If you want peace, prepare for peace”). Even the secret behind the creation of Man with social, cultural, national, tribal, and sexual distinctions is directed toward a humanistic goal. Allah the Almighty says:
“O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct people and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is Omniscient, Cognizant” (The Noble Qur’an, Surat 49. Al-Hujurat/ Part 26, p.676)
This verse simply reveals that cultural differences in terms of social diversity and sexual distinctions have no priority over connaisance. Goodness is the only standard of betterness, and the equal dialogue is the universal human right which all humans have the right to practice and enjoy. As the Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him, said:
“O Mankind, your Lord is one and your father is one. You all descend from Adam, and Adam was created from earth. He is most honoured among you in the sight of God who is most upright. No Arab is superior than non-Arab, no coloured person to a white person to a coloured except by taqwas” Ahmed and Al-tirmidh)
This Hadith in turn emphasises human equality and reveals that colour is no longer a standard of preference among nations. Thart is,
‘Whiteness’ and ‘Blackness’, ‘Civilization’ and ‘Primitiveness’ all are a part of those colonial racist ages which witnessed the might of the night over the light of the right”. However, co-existence for which all humanistic labours should be devoted still calls for an honest will. Edward said noted that:
“There is after all a profound difference between the will to understand for purposes of co-existence and enlargement of horizons, and the will to dominate for the purposes of control”
To coexist and understand one another, nations in terms of people and individuals need to accept each other showing their purest willingness to co-exist. In brief, the gate of dialogue should be kept open as there is a will.
b- Common references
Concepts, that are those ideological vehicles by which the American pole imposes its ‘civilizational model’ over the world, are the very mechanisms that may activate conflicts among cultures. It is then necessary to know that dialogue in its international level requires a highly universal frame of concepts which all cultural components agreed upon. The need of a common reference among nations has reached its highest peak as the geographical borders begin to completely vanish due to a series of telecommunicational evolutions that turned the world into a very small village. The UN charter is apparently an embodiment of such a dialogue; but, Mahdi argues, “The serve changes in power relations witnessed during the
last decade have emaciated this basic role of institution, its aura and its potentialities.” (2000). As far as concepts are concerned, a kind of world Dictionary is needed to be the guide to whom everyone from whatever culture can refer to. In this respect, such a common repertoire calls for a universal language which can, at least, help nations achieve mutual understanding. The later, which all humanists long for, may find its way to existence if, for instance, translators and linguists from every region and branch try their best to promote translation studies. The later may become bridges through which to switch from a language/or culture to another without deforming the meaning conveyed or bringing about misunderstanding. The American colonial discourse, or even the post-colonial one, is all loaded with concepts like “ freedom”, “ peace”, “ democracy”, “ modernity”, “co-existence”, and so
“globalization”, “culture”, “civilization”, “enlightenment”
forth. This awful turmoil of concepts is, however, of nonsense as there is no international consensus on them. The worst of all is that there is a recognizable tendency to Americanize most of human universal values that every society considers as ideals. This tendency must be restrained since those values are not unique to a particular region, race or nation. Instead of going frequently through such a process, all of us, as humanists, must put stress on the universality of those concepts/values. As Mohamed Saadi aptly put it:
“There is a set of basic human values that are common among all cultural and religious spaces in the world, and we must invest them and focus on them to establish the unity of humanity and the unity of ‘human essence’”
c- International democracy
The international labours to achieve peace among nations in fight have ended into failure due to the dominance of a voice, which is the American decision, over the other international voices. This injustice in power relations reelects the absence of democracy in its international scale. One will not fail to recognize such a kind of dictatorship even in discourse. In his reaction to the events of September 11th, 2001, the present American president George w. bush stated:
« Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: either you are with us or you are with the terrorists». (2001)
This short statement is enough to come up with the arrogant ethnocentrism which stamps the American political foreign policy and narrow the horizons of the international dialogue. Culture of ‘the white Man’ still controls the modern American politicians and drives them, consciously or unconsciously, to look down the outsiders or rather ‘the foreign devil’. The aspects of such an ethnocentric perspective are embodied in terms of ‘naming/calling/labeling’ and ‘mapping’. The American DST listing names of people and parties as terrorists or anti-Americans, its foreign political applications categorizing countries or nations under terms like ‘the Great Middle East’, ‘ the axis of the East’ and so on, all these features and nicknames are, ideologically speaking, a part of what Edward Said calls ‘ imperial perspectives’ ;That is,
“ that way of looking at a distant foreign reality by subordinating its history from one’s point of view, seeing its people as subjects whose fate is to be decided not by them but by what distant administrators think is best for them” (2003)
superpower in the world» would hinder any freely dialogue among nations and probably drive the international relations into a series of bloody battles. So in order that civilizational dialogue finds its gate to existstence, democracy in terms of justice, equality, responsibility, and freedom of expression must take place on the international scene.
2- Rethinking the role of religion
Throughout the course of human history, religion constitutes a basic component for all human societies. There were cities without markets, quarters, or shops; but, there was never a city without a temple. Owing to this, any restriction or persecution against religious beliefs and practices would be a rock on the way of people whose comfort is to be felt while they are given the right to express their beliefs and spirituality within a free and respectful atmosphere.
d- Scientific dogma and the negation of religion
Truth is what we look for. We may differ in the way we think of it, but it is still that existential concern which will bring us together one day. However what stifles the project of such a civilizational dialogue and abort any attempt to get near the other and share
concerns with him is that scientific tendency, which often imprisons our mind and slams the door of knowledge and enlightenment against it. Religious beliefs are without doubt, the major shapers of our wills and conceptions. Owing to the central position it holds, religion should be rethought to find out its points of intersection with the current scientific knowledge. By this, one does not intend to say that the fault is in religion, but rather in people’s thinking and understanding. Many atheists, who gossip in the name of science and rational thinking never stop excluding the unseen off the scientific dispute. The unseen, being the second half of the whole existence, is always judged by the materialists to be a world of ghosts and superstitions rather than a world that deserves respect and consideration. One asks: till when those intellectuals will continue to negate religion as a rational source of scientific knowledge? Are religion and science contradictory or rather complementary? Such questions really provokes any believer’s feelings and thought and push him to argue against such a scientific dogma, which puts science and religion in two opposite extremes and deceives the weak believers to apply for a science-religion dialogue as if there is actually a real controversy among them. “Seeing” does not always “believing”. “Seeing” is “perhaps” and “maybe” and many other phrases that express the very relativity of human recognition; however, “believing” is the highest degree at which human recognition changes into faith. By this one means that it is not reasonable for me to dogmatically deny a truth simply because my power of recognition is not enough to appreciate it or because the device used for that recognition does not go with the
nature of that truth. The Unseen is Unknown for the eye, but it may be known by the ear or by any other system of recognition. Being unseen, the sound waves (S.W.), for example require an auditory system to be appreciated. Regardless of whether that system is natural or artificial, each truth or knowledge has its own system of appreciation. In looking at the forgoing evidences, scientists in terms of physicists and naturalists have no right to disprove the Unseen because there studies and researches are concerned with the field of physics rather than that of metaphysics. Hence if the materialistic tendency in thinking and judging makes one’s point of view superficial and incapable to recognize the spiritual dimension of knowledge, then what one cannot prove at once, he should not disprove it at all. To sum up, science and religion remain two wings of the same bird. Such a conclusion does not only correct human conception about the world and truth, but it also bridges the gap between the “I” and “the other” and makes the horizons of Civilizational Dialogue more and more spacious.
e-Religious education and the pair (love; peace)
It is worldly known that education, religious or secular, has a heavy weight in formulating our thought and behaviour. Owing to their fateful impact on our thought and behaviour, our educational programmes should embody, in their form and content, those humanistic values at which we have pointed previously.
As for the content, which holds much importance for me, “Religious education” should a hold a top position. One cannot deny that Religion is more powerful than the influence a positivistic law may exert on people. This fact is due to the fact that religion defines our conception of things and directs our relationships with others. At this point, intellectuals (these include theorists, thinkers, instructors, educators…etc) who speak and write in the name of secularism are meant to change their minds toward religion getting free from the historical sophism with which the concept ‘religion’ is loaded. By religion one means that omniscient and universal view, which provides a just and comprehensive perspective about Man’s psychological, social, ethical, economic, and political affairs. Having understood this, Man’s positivistic thought in terms like “Marxism”, “Capitalism”, “Darwinism”, and many other currents and directions are no more than limited and exclusive perspectives. These are referred to as ideologies simply because they lack universality, and they are driven by personal, regional, or national interests. Yet religion in its absolute truth aims at reforming Man’s total affairs making up a humanistic Doctrine which justly serves, in any space and time, the interests of all nations without exception. In regard to the previous considerations, “Islamic education”, which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) adopted and adapted his companions to it, constitutes an ideal example. The question of peace, which is the prevailing issue in foreign affairs today, has its roots in the Islamic belief. The Prophet (PBUH), for instance, says:
“None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself” (Narrated by Albukhari & Muslim)
This Hadith (saying), regardless of its shortness, highlights one of the basic conditions of a true belief: love. A belief founded on mutual love and brotherhood would protect the national and international relationship from decay and replace hate with love and selfishness with cooperation and self-negation. But how love can be maintained? This question, again, has an answer in the Prophet’s saying:
“Would you like to guide you to something which if you did you would love each other? Spread out peace among you” (Narrated by Muslim)
The pair (love; peace) can be universalised and, then, pave the way to the maintenance of a peaceful and durable Dialogue among Nations only if “religious education” is given back its noble standing. This goes without question.
f- Universal ethics of dialogue: suggested x-model
Ethics are the backbone of civilizational dialogue. Without them, dialogue becomes synonymous with conflict. As the world is growing more and more diverse, the calls for a universal law of ethics have begun to proliferate. In his approach to this issue, the theologian King Hans assumed that such universal ethics necessitate three basic principles:
“– humanity cannot live and survive without universal ethics.
–There will be no universal peace without peace among religions. – There will be no universal peace among religions unless there is dialogue among religions.” (H.Kung, 1991)
This triad puts stress on religious dialogue. Such emphasis, however, needs more and more explanation: the word “religion” here is to a far extent synonymous with “ethics”, and the later in turn, implies those human values, which constitute the very part of human nature. Throughout my personally suggested x-model, I tried to highlight three fundamental attributes without which dialogue, national or international becomes a mirage. The model in question is summed up as follow:
As stated before, “truth is what we look for”. It is that ethic of honesty, which makes our relationships clear and perpetual. Thus, truth, and not interest, should operate as the common driver and director of the relationships amidst nations. The first real action to realise a real reconciliation among everybody is to seek for truth. In contrast, lying and hypocrisy, which dominate the world politics today, constitute a danger, not only for the future of the international relations, but also for the
future of humanity itself. In brief, seeking for truth and honesty may push us believe in the diversity of perspectives, the complexity of the world, and in the importance of the renewing our visions to invent a rich and effective dialogue between cultures and peoples all together.
Humanity, which is “the quality of being humble”(Oxford, 2003), is one of those fundamental conditions of dialogue among nations. Yet when one underestimate the other claiming that it is the absolute “good” in which civilization is centred, and that it is the source from which the light emanates, the heats of hate break out, and the yearned dialogue goes with the wind. Therefore, cultural humility, and not ethnocentrism, is quiet necessary. This finds justification in ELMandjara’saying:
“‘Since wars have become the expression of cultural arrogance, cultural humility is now the new name of peace’. Cultural humility is important because it enhances the capacity to listen to the other. Our concern today is with dialogue as related to civilization hence to cultural values. They determine the form and the content of that dialogue and condition the search for peace” (2000)
Humility, thus, calls for the promotion of “ear culture” instead of “power” on which some of them insist to use as the only language of understanding and solving problems. Such evil inclination and the will-to-power contradict with the belief-in dialogue principle. Nonetheless,
“Believing in dialogue paves the way for vivacious hope: the hope to live in a world permeated by the rein of economic indices and destructive weapons” (Med Khatami, 2000)
It is that innocent emotion, which inspires peoples and nations to communicate without wires or even without having a common cultural background. Love is what makes us weep and sympathise with anyone suffering in whatever part of the world. It is the paradigm of peace and safety among all nations without exception.
“From an ethical perspective, the paradigm of dialogue among civilizations requires that we abandon the will-to-power and instead pursue compassion, understanding, and love. The ultimate goal of dialogue is not dialogue in and of itself, but attaining empathy and compassion” (Med Khatami, 2000)
Love in terms of sympathy and compassion is, thus, a hidden mechanism motivating people to talk to each other, go beyond differences and keep the lamp of hope burning..
If people tolerated each other, peace would surely prevail. It would even reinforce love and create a vast area of dialogue and mutual understanding. But if everybody went astray bearing in heart a blind hate to revenge against the other for
buried mythical, cultural, or historical circumstances, then nobody would enjoy the happiness of life. It is crucial here to bring back that moment when the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) conquered his homeland, Mecca, after being driven away with his companions from it. At that moment, the Prophet was extremely powerful; his army esteemed about ten thousands soldier armed with faith and God’s word. He was then able to sentence his enemies to death and destroy them one by one; but, he did not. He rather ordered his soldiers to surround them with mercy and not to cause terror against someone by anyway. “Go! You are free” the prophet ordered his enemies, the unbelievers of Quraish. It is at this point that human feeling intersect paving the way for an honest, humble, and lovely interaction among peoples and nations together. This intersection is what my personally suggested x-model sought to symbolise. So let us hope with Muhammad Khatami, who called for dialogue among civilizations suggesting:
“Let us hope that enmity and oppression should end, and that the clamour of love for truth, justice and human dignity should prevail. Let us hope that all human beings should sing with Hafiz Shiraz, this divinely inspired spirit, that: No ineffable clamour reverberates in the grand heavenly done more sweetly than the sound of love”
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