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     (World Institute of Islamic Studies for Dialogue, Mediation, Gender and Peace)

Concept paper by Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali
Founder, Director General,
Wisdom Foundation 

1st  November 2011


Current international challenges recount fundamentally deep concerns relating to the increase and escalation of intercivilizational conflict. This idea of a “clash of civilizations” originated by Samuel P. Huntington has generated much discussion and controversy. Reaction to his thesis has ranged from affirmation to criticism to a complete rejection of his hypothesis.  At the same time, the text has been perceived by many as key document of a new kind of discourse: that civilizations culturally differ and must be prepared to struggle and even prevail over one another. 

If the  assumption  of international polarization founded on the increasingly significant component of ideology and culture is to be seriously considered,  the crucial question is : can decades-old adversaries with  stereotypical images  along  cultural and ideological lines be  vanquished ? Can a new paradigm from World think tanks for the categorization of international relations, subdue or conquer the "clash of civilizations" cliché?  .  For the answer  to  be resoundingly positive,  constructive approaches towards understanding the dynamics of such type of conflict  must be put under the microscope. Moreover, the central challenge  for the development of strategies that can  promote goodwill, moderation and commonalities among cultures and civilizations would play a significant role. The media could be invoked to spread the message.

Visibility of political tension and increasing alienation  along civilization and predominantly cultural-religious lines makes it all the more  important to reflect upon the need for entering into a dialogue . Apart from its epistemological relevance , dialogue would an enabling factor  in creating an alternative  paradigm  to construct a common ground , drawing protagonists into a  bridge-building process . For the dialogue to be fruitful the factor that could play a key role could be one of healing  memories . For this, while sustaining distinctiveness and uniqueness of each civilization,  a syncretic approach  instead of  an antithetical one  would be both interesting and productive. After all civilizations have borrowed from one another.  An objective perspective that is free from historical grudges  should be the parameter of our dedication to forging an alliance of civilizations.

Worthy of our attention should be the affirmation of sharing and exchanging rather than of resentment and misgivings .  Transcending the paradigm of differences , an attitude towards one's implicit understanding of the world  is also indispensable for the development of tolerance towards other civilizations.

Rich with symbols that appeal to hearts and minds at many levels, several issues could spontaneously surface in the dialogue among civilizations. Engaging in complex issues varies in accordance with the context in which this subject is raised. At times, it fuels arguments and at others it is brought up in reminiscence, but the danger lies in the  cultural and historical phenomenon that imposes its presence, not as a chapter of history that is  gone by but as a human experience  in lessons to be taught to us for the present. This narrative can be elevated to a different level. It can be revised and guided by a principle of  “interdependent co-operation”, whereby the world is understood as an interdependent turf, where the stresses and strains of sustainability require a innovative kind of global approach .

The  appraisal can lead to  a healing of memory, a process that requires bringing to the table  fresh deliberations  of the human experience of the world where one can find a place to be heard in  manner conducive to compose and build  a contented  and effective alliance toward our shared human future. Taking up the challenge using wisdom and the deep human as well as spiritual requirements of human living, rather than simply serving technical and commercial interests , we can endow our tumultuous and beleaguered world with the peace it is silently seeking.

Our  combined endeavor  will lead us to the light of wisdom compelling us join hands in partnership and friendship to obliterate  the pain, healing the wounds  that we have unwittingly given ourselves and from which we  collectively suffer.

(Paper to be published)




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