• Aaron Tyler


Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations (1997), acclaimed by many policymakers and foreign affairs analysts in the West for its reasoned realism but also castigated by intellectuals for its infidelity to multiculturalism and challenge to the exportation of liberalism, attracted international attention for its assertion, following the dismantling of Cold War rivalries, that Islam would emerge as the most potent and violent challenge to Western civilization.1 In a 1999 keynote address delivered at Colorado College, Huntington stated: “For the foreseeable future, the relations between the West and Islam will be at best distant and acrimonious and at worst conflictual and violent.”2 Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, many again harkened to Huntington’s prescient predictions. The September 2001 al-Qaeda attacks, described by most world leaders as senseless and cowardly acts of violence, inaugurated what has become a global war on terrorism. While careful to emphasize that Islam is a peaceful religion and that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceable and law-abiding, Western leaders and citizens are cognizant of how the recent rise in terrorism is a product of Muslim extremism.


Political Theorist Islamic Civilization Islamic Tradition Colorado College Cultural Confrontation 
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  1. 1.
    Huntington’s hypothesis was first articulated in a 1993 Foreign Affairs article entitled “The Clash of Civilizations?” The hypothesis was expounded at book length in 1997. Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72 (Summer 1993): 22–28;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    The divisive terms dar al-kufr (or dar al-harb: “abode of war”) and dar al-Islam are regularly utilized by Muslim extremists. Concomitantly, many westerners also nurture a binary perspective that contrasts a “peace-loving,” “civilized” West with a “backwards,” “belligerent” Muslim world. Muslim intellectual Khaled Abou El Fadl describes how this dichotomous view of the world—dar al-harb versus dar al-Islam—was derived by Muslim jurists writing during a developmental era for Islamic law, from the eighth to eleventh centuries. This medieval period was characterized by incessant reciprocating threats and forays between rival states and kingdoms, where territorial dominance was a geopolitical necessity. Abou El Fadl rightly references historical context—not religious conviction—as the prevailing impetus behind the incorporation of these divisive geographical distinctions into Islamic jurisprudence. (Neither the Qur’an nor Sunna, the two most important sources of Islamic law, legitimates these distinctions.) Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 223–28. Arguably, in today’s global context of proliferating transnational migration and growing cultural pluralism, a two- or even three-abode world is untenable, even though it is still embraced by pundits and citizens in both Western and Islamic cultures. Despite the geographic and demographic realities that complicate this binary perspective, one must nonetheless address the intellectual and sociocultural arguments that continue to bolster this dichotomous worldview.Google Scholar
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© Aaron Tyler 2008

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  • Aaron Tyler

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