The vast majority of Western politicians and members of the media today appear to be guided by the idea that it is better to be wrong about Francis Fukuyama's The End of History than to be right about Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations. Pictured: Huntington (left) and Fukayama. (Image sources: Huntington - World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons; Fukayama - Fronteiras do Pensamento/Wikimedia Commons)
The vast majority of Western politicians and members of the media today appear to be guided by the idea that it is better to be wrong about Francis Fukuyama's The End of History than to be right about Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations. This seems simply an abbreviated expression of a widespread unwillingness, or inability, to call things by their real names. Let us examine the reality that is so hard for many members of liberal societies to acknowledge, and which explains why Huntington's diagnosis of the current era is far more fitting than Fukuyama's.
Huntington's working hypothesis for analyzing current events basically follows German sociologist Max Weber's "sociology of civilizations." Yet the term "shock of civilizations" was coined in 1957 by the historian Bernard Lewis, in the aftermath of the Suez crisis.
The clash of civilizations should not be understood, however, in a purely military context. The clash of civilizations in which we find ourselves today is less direct in three main ways:
- The two "civilizations" are not on distinct opposite sides. Not all Muslims are Islamists; not all Europeans want to defend European civilization.
- Two religions do not stand against each other. Europe has religiously disarmed and in its place has put a totally irrational dogma in the form of multiculturalism.
- The clash is not taking place with arms. Although terrorist attacks are severe, the attempt by one civilization to subjugate the other is occurring on a broader ideological and religious plane.
The first distinction
According to a report released by Institut Montaigne in September 2016, the Muslim population of France is divided as follows: Nearly half consider the laws of the state -- as opposed to Islamic law -- as binding. This sector does not wish to live separately from French society. Around a quarter of the Muslim sector is extremely devout, yet willing to tolerate other religions. The remainder puts the laws of Islam over the laws of the Republic, and creates a parallel society. This last group seems to be increasingly radicalized and dominated by the younger generation -- those born in France. In this sense, no two distinct civilizations are pitted against each other.
This blurred line can also be seen in the goals of Islamists, whether pragmatic or radical. Both seem to have the same objectives.
The first appears to be the re-Islamization of Muslim countries, by destroying the remains of secular regimes. The West has been helping them achieve this goal by dismantling secular dictatorships in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Without such help, this goal would take much longer.
The second goal appears to be the unification of the Muslim world, including lost territories (such as Spain, Sicily, the Balkans, Israel and others).
The third and ultimate goal appears to be the worldwide submission to Islam of non-Muslim societies.
The second distinction
The concept of the clash of civilizations assumes that there is a conflict between religions. This view often appears to be true where Islam is concerned; the religious aspect of Islamism appears to be a powerful motivator. That desire illustrates how deeply flawed were the sociological and political theories of modernization, according to which the entire world eventually would undergo a process of enlightenment, similar to Europe's. One such theory, put forth at the end of the 1950s by the scholar Daniel Lerner, suggested that mass media penetration into the Middle East would lead to a mass shift towards Euro-American thinking. Little did anyone know that the opposite would turn out to be the case: jihadists and their apologists began using the media not only to reinforce the difference between the Middle East and the West, but to keep the Middle East in the fold of Islam.
At the same time, as the Islamic world increasingly connected its identity to religion, Europe underwent a shift in its thinking. On one hand, it suppressed its Christian roots; on the other, it began to develop a dogma of multiculturalism, which styles itself as a positive project of openness towards the outside. In fact, however, multiculturalism is a purely negative doctrine that constitutes an attack on European civilization from within.
Unlike traditional Marxism, for instance, which rejects "class struggle" and capitalism in favor of a utopian classless society, neo-Marxism rejects all of western civilization and its institutions. It appears to see everything European as a manifestation of alienation, every authority as a manifestation of power, every ethical or legal norm as a tool of control, every tradition or heritage as a manifestation of oppression and every form of societal identity as a betrayal of the revolution. Neo-Marxists seem naively to assume that when society is completely broken, there will be nothing left but pure freedom. Rarely in history have devastation and destruction been defended with such noble words.
According to many of these multiculturalists, recognizing the "other" is a manifestation of goodness, while disrespecting "otherness" is a sign of racism, fascism and evil. Their ideal society seems one in which various identities circulate freely without converging. In such a society, each group has its own special rights, which must be upheld by the legal system. Lately, many extremist Muslims have been using this multicultural mindset to their advantage.
Whereas traditional Marxists believed that a dictatorship of the proletariat would result in a classless society, the neo-Marxists apparently believe that a dictatorship for the benefit of minorities will result in a society of absolute freedom for all. To this end, they seem to think, it is necessary to build an anti-discrimination bureaucracy to break the domination of the majority over the minority and force the majority to demand an end to its own privileged position. It is not enough for the majority to tolerate otherness; it must embrace and love it.
The third distinction
The main battle being fought by Islamists in the clash of civilizations seems to involve three strategic steps: that of the so-called weak fighting the strong (such as Islamists vs. Europeans); that of particular Muslim societal demands; and, ultimately, that of a peaceful takeover.
The first step:
Many pragmatic Islamists appear to have been planning to disarm Europe by quiet conquest with portraying themselves as victims. The more concessions they acquire, the more, it appears, they claim to be persecuted. They present their own obscure demands as progressive, anti-racist and anti-fascist.
They join the issues of faith, social exclusion, poverty and the fight against racism seemingly to hide their real priorities -- all the while keeping in check religiously lukewarm Muslims (who, in any case, are decreasing in countries such as France.)
The second step:
Many pragmatic Islamists appear to want to Islamize Europe peacefully, using the available democratic mechanisms at their disposal. Some begin by introducing sectarian demands, such as the right to prayer rooms in universities, in the workplace and in public; the right to preach Islam in public schools; the right to impose gender segregation in schools, sporting events and swimming pools; and the right to engage in polygamy. At the same time, they try to introduce legal measures against criticizing Islam; to introduce quotas for Muslims in the government and the media; and to enforce the right to create Islamic political parties.
This gradual creation of a parallel Islamic society is a process that has been going on in France, for instance, for the past 15 years. It began with the activities of organizations that, under the pretext of integrating the descendants of migrants to combat juvenile delinquency, are run by religious indoctrinators. These organizations ensure order and peace in Muslim neighborhoods, while simultaneously suppressing individual thought on the part of Muslim youth, and cultivating total commitment to imams.
The situation is such that groups of young believers stand against drug dealers, and their imams even offer their services to the police. Yet, these youths only seem to respect law-enforcement authorities if their imams condone it.
Muslim organizations also are being established around mosques in different districts, and claim to be the spokespeople for all Muslims living in those districts. They hold demonstrations to call for the meeting of their demands, which they present as part of a movement on behalf of tolerance and human rights. In addition, they demand state funding for their educational activities. Meanwhile in France, for example, native French residents of such districts, as well as Muslims who are not extremists, prefer to move out of these districts.
Government officials urge the mayors of these districts to respect the demands of Muslims, on the grounds that otherwise they will be driven to engage in underground activities. Social workers in these districts are sidelined, as their role is taken over by members of the Muslim community and imams. Muslim families often will not even let social workers past their doorstep, and social workers increasingly receive insults, when not death threats. Meanwhile, many social workers themselves are trying to appease Muslim clients, by attempting to help them receive benefits to which they are not entitled.
A parallel society is also being built in the field of education. Poor Muslim families have been taking their children out of public schools and enrolling them in private schools, the tuition for which is paid for by foreign donors.
The third step:
Muslims start to build a parallel society in education, welfare and policing. For this, they are in need of co-financing from a state to which many may often not be loyal. The state meets their demands out of fear of illicit activity and rioting. It tolerates polygamy; is hesitant to inspect the driver's licenses of Islamic suspects; and refrains from monitoring the content of sermons in mosques. Apparently conscious of this fear, Islamists step up their demands.
To a large extent, this is a generational issue. The problems above did not arise with the older generations; it is the young who have become radicalized, and the trend does not seem to be socioeconomic.
Most of the 2,000 jihadists from France who went to fight for the Islamic State were relatively affluent and educated. Therefore, improving their societal condition and integration probably would not be remedies for radicalization.
"At the moment," Fukuyama acknowledged in a recent essay marking the 25th anniversary of Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations, "it looks like Huntington is winning."
Prof. Jan Keller is a Czech Social Democrat Member of the European Parliament, sociologist, analyst, commentator and author of more than 30 books, including Sociology of the Organization and Bureaucracy (2007) or The Three Social Worlds (2011). He studied at the universities of Bordeaux (1985), Aix-en-Provence (1988) and Sorbonne (1992) in Paris. He has lectured sociology at the University of Lille, Poitiers, Trento, Lodz and Barcelona.
This article is based on a speech (1:02:44 – 1:32:49) delivered at the conference, "10 years since the death of Samuel Huntington - Do We Live in an Era of Clash of Civilizations?" on April 9, 2018 in Prague and is published here with the kind permission of the author. It was translated into English by Josef Zbořil.
 Ibid, pages 140-141.
 Ibid, pages 140-141.
 Ibid, pages 140-141.
 Ibid, pages 140-141.
 Ibid, pages 140-141.
 Ibid, pages 79-80.
 Ibid, page 86.
 Ibid, pages 71-72.
 Ibid, page 38.