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Incompatible civilizational values as catalysts for conflict in the West

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Why do trivial matters such as cartoons lead to disproportionately horrific violence? Why did the perpetrators of violence choose to do what they do in the primitive and medieval ways they prefer to do? In the light of the recent terror attacks in France and Austria, I try to find answers in a concept that originated in the 1990s United States.

‘The clash of civilizations’ is a controversial, yet relevant, concept developed by U.S. political scientist Samuel P. Huntington. In 1993, Foreign Affairs magazine published an article written by him of the same name, which later evolved into a full-fledged book in 1996, titled “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order”.

The term implies that cultural and religious identities of peoples and nations of the world could potentially turn out to be primary sources of conflict, and future wars would be fought not between countries, but between cultures, or rather civilizations.

Huntington wrote, “The absence of an Islamic core state is a major contributor to the pervasive internal and external conflicts which characterize Islam. Consciousness without cohesion is a source of weakness to Islam and a source of threat to other civilizations. Is this condition likely to be sustained?”

Well, it seems right, taking recent incidents of terror in Europe into account. Many thought the idea would be too far-stretched. But, 9/11 proved Huntington’s critics wrong when the West had the first encounter with a radical form of a distant ideology hailing from the Middle-East on its own soil – Islamism, the political and sometimes military face of Islam, which was brewing up for a decade since the American involvement in the Gulf War of 1990-91.

Irrespective of geographies, most of the defenders of political Islam are vulnerable to radicalism. But, pure spiritual Islam devoid of political considerations can be less vulnerable, as they focus only on their religious lives, without any gratuitous aspiration to spread their faith or to build a caliphate around the world under Islamic law, for that matter.

Multiplicity of identities and civilizational values

The motivating factor behind all the terror crimes was some ‘identity’ of being exceptional as compared to other fellow beings. The religious identities of the perpetrators of terrorism always superseded their collective national consciousness and sanity of mind in favour of some extremely idealistic world where their ideology alone rules.

It is also true that all Islamic believers aren’t radicals. A majority of them want a peaceful life. But, they will have to pay a heavy price if they are unwilling to adapt to the basic tenets of their respective dominant national cultures with tolerant mind-set, and with periodic checks on radical elements from dominating prevailing religious discourse.

The fact that there is no single core Islamic core state to oversee the faith in its entirety, as noted by Huntington, makes the religion open to interpretations, or rather misinterpretations, suiting different purposes for different groups of people.

The way Kemalist-influenced Turkey (presently going through a rewriting phase by Recep Tayyip Erdogan) does it varies from Wahhabi-influenced Saudi Arabia, the same goes with Shia-influenced Iran. Depending on the vulnerabilities in the mental state of different groups of believers, radicalism makes way for itself in a gradual pace.

In this context, French President Emmanuel Macron’s crackdown on radical Islam is noteworthy, as it needs regulation from a responsible secular state like France, and for ensuring the continued existence of that state in its original form. The same goes with Germany or Nordic states that experience an increasing inflow of potential radicals from Islamic societies, in the past one decade in particular.

George Bush-era ‘War on Terror’ and presently Macron’s moves can be seen as the first responses in lines with the idea of a civilizational clash in this century, a conflict between the Western and Islamic civilizations.

It also meant a conflict between singular-minded, non-questionable devotion and absolute liberty, a conflict between absolute secularism and theocracy, and a conflict between ultra-liberalism and puritanical religiosity.

Exceptionalism and being ‘the other’

Islam, inherently, talks about every aspect of life of a believer – what one should eat and not, how one should dress and not, how genders by birth define one’s position in family and community, and even how one should perceive non-believers. This translates into an extreme form of exceptionalism in real life for practitioners of that faith.

Another key factor to note is that they maintain this exceptionalism with unwillingness for a closer socio-cultural integration to the larger society with a different civilizational heritage they find themselves in, unlike Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism which also have their own exceptionalist traits.

In some cases, their actions post-radicalization have even resulted in misjudged retaliatory terror strikes in completely unrelated and new locations such as the shootings at a mosque that happened in New Zealand last year.

This cycle continues without a foreseeable end, exacerbated in a digital age where caliphates can even exist merely on the internet with the potential for public safety hazards in any location around the world. And, if that happens in a totally unexpected place like Vienna earlier this month, media attention will be high, and peaceful Islamic believers faces the brunt of ‘othering’ from the societies alien to the Islamic civilization they live in.

When the Islamic and Western civilizations met

The Islamic civilization made contacts with the European or Western civilization for the first time in 8th century CE during the Moorish conquests of Andalusia and the southern parts of Spain. These cultural influences can be seen even today. But, in the 15th century Christian monarchs took back Moorish territories in an eight-century-long period of Reconquista.

Fast-forward to the 20th century, the West becomes involved in nationalist struggles in the Middle-East, home to the Islamic and Jewish civilizations. Thus, the Arab states, 22 in number today, and subsequently the world’s only Jewish state of Israel came into being.

Since the formation of the Jewish state was predominantly a project led by European Jews, it retained a certain amount of similarity with the Western civilization. But, the Arabs retained their exceptionalism with Islam as its core.

For fairly a long period of time now, Europe is predominately divided between Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christianity as in Greece and Russia, and atheists. The latter half of the 20th century, however, began witnessing changes in demographic dynamics of the continent with the spread of globalization. But, radicalism still hadn’t made its way.

In this century, the sources of radicalization in Europe varies between factors such as increasing inflow of refugees from conflict zones from across the Mediterranean in the Middle-East, particularly Syria, and North Africa from the early 2010s, and some of these new immigrants who would later go on turning radical.

The countries such as France had historical ties with the Arab Maghreb countries, particularly Algeria and Tunisia, rooted in its colonial past, which would turn out to be an Achilles’ heel in the national security and integrity of the French Republic in this century.

Meanwhile, there were other non-Arab countries, part of the 57-nation Islamic civilization with their own exceptionalist doctrines like Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Rigidity in maintaining an exceptionalist outlook on daily religious practice, including a puritanical form of theism, also acted as a catalyst for a civilizational clash with the West.

An historical example of ‘syncretism’ from India

However, there are good examples of evolution of ‘syncretic’ belief systems as with Sufism elsewhere in India, where I write this essay from, that co-existed with Hinduism for centuries until the British operationalized their ‘divide and rule’ policy for economic exploitation of the Subcontinent.

Sufi-influenced traditions such as Hindustani classical music are global examples for co-existence and peace in the northern parts of India, even with dissimilarities. But, the rise of Hindu nationalism and revivalism from the early 1990s worsened the divide between the Muslims and the Hindus in India, which unfortunately leads to radicalisation on both sides.

Reconciliation of differences in identity is the need of the hour

Increasing polarisations on religio-cultural lines, exasperated by the rise of right-wing populist governments exploiting the fears of native populations across the world makes already-existing fault-lines wide.

Eventually, the Islamic civilization has to come to terms with other civilizations and their respective tenets, particularly with the West, if they wish to co-exist within the geographies of the West characterized by liberal and secular thinking of its native people. The same goes with other civilizations existing in places different from its origin.

A mutual understanding, confidence-building dialogues, and co-existence, with respect for each other’s civilizational values are a must to ensure peace in diverse geographies marked by a multiplicity of identities, cultures, and native nationalities.

And, the steps taken to uproot radicalism have to be covert rather than in an openly proclaimed manner to avoid adding up to the insecurities of the vulnerable, a lesson the French President can derive from the myriad of emotionally strong reactions of the concerned populace from around the world.

Bejoy Sebastian is an independent journalist based in India who regularly writes, tweets, and blogs on issues relating to international affairs and geopolitics, particularly of the Asia-Pacific region. He also has an added interest in documentary photography. Previously, his bylines have appeared in The Diplomat, The Kochi Post, and Delhi Post.

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European sanctions against Turkey are more likely than ever

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Another scandal erupted in relations between Turkey and the EU – on November 22, the Turkish merchant vessel, Roseline A, was detained and fully inspected by personnel of German frigate Hamburg in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, 160 nautical miles north of the Libyan city of Benghazi.

Since no weapons were found on board, Ankara received moral satisfaction which would later turn into notes of protest demanding an apology and compensation, as well as statements about European “Turkophobia”. Turkey for sure will use this cause in all possible ways – necessary protests will be made; lawsuits will be filed. This very issue will be included in the agenda of Turkey’s activities in NATO and the UN. The Turkish side has already declared its official protest, and the EU ambassadors have been invited to the Turkish Foreign Ministry for “talks”.

It is worth noting that this incident occurred shortly before the next EU summit scheduled on December 10, devoted to possible imposing of sanctions against Turkey for its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. EU top officials are once again trying to make it clear to Turkey that its activities in the region are unacceptable and “sanctions are more likely than ever.”

Moreover, on November 26, MEPs voted by an absolute majority in favor of a draft resolution calling on the EU member states to impose tough sanctions on Ankara. The document emphasizes that relations between Turkey and the EU have reached a “historical minimum” due to Ankara’s actions in the Mediterranean, Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Europe sends constant signals to Turkey that its position is contrary to European values, interests, and understanding of regional and global security.

What will happen at the summit on December 10, when the EU will, once again, discuss sanctions against Turkey? How far the EU will be ready to go and what steps Ankara will take in the near future to prevent it? Now Turkey provides a more restrained policy trying not to give a leverage to Europe, Paris, or Berlin.

France still may be the most anti-Turkish country in the EU, but now Berlin is starting to act more openly against Ankara. The incident in the Eastern Mediterranean was approved by the German leadership in advance for sure. This means that the situation for Turkey is changing for the worse on the eve of the EU summit, so important for Erdogan.

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More pressure on Republic of Srpska

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Recently, Bosnian High Representative Valentin Inzko, who is tasked with overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the Bosnian war, presented his 58th report on the situation in the country to the UN Security Council. He again accused Bosnian Serb and Croat leadership of secession, disruptive actions and attempts to make Bosnia appear dysfunctional.

“Republic of Srpska authorities are undermining Bosnia`s institutions and threatening its sovereignty, attacking the High Representative and foreign judges, and refusing to accept migrants. The Serbian member of the Presidency, Milorad Dodik, is the loudest in disputing Bosnia and Herzegovina, which he calls an impossible state“ – Inzko told the representatives of the states of the UN Security Council.

Such selective attacks on Serbs could not remain without a diplomatic response. Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Security Council, Vasily Nebenzya stated:

– We have listened carefully to Mr. Inzko and we are sorry that the quality of the High Representative’s report has not been improved. Criticism of Serbs in Bosnia has become a standard way of writing the Report. Instead of accusations, the OHR should offer solutions. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve to create solutions themselves – Nebenzya emphasized at the United Nations. Nebenzya also called for a revision of the conditions and criteria for closing the office of Bosnia’s international administrator. The Russian position on this issue is well known and logical.

Because what should an international administrator or a High Representative do in a democratic country in the 20th century?! What kind of country is Bosnia and Herzegovina if someone can make decisions outside the Constitution and the law. Unfortunately, this undemocratic practice continues primarily due to the intensified aspirations of certain Bosniak officials to rewrite the Dayton Agreement in favour of the centralization and unitarization of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The High Representative’s persistent desire to shift all responsibility for the failed process of interethnic reconciliation to Serbs and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina is obvious. They are baselessly called Dayton (Peace Agreement) ‘destroyers’. The High Representative wants to scare the international community with the possibility of a dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina while completely ignoring the real situation in the country. Its obvious that some “international factors” support these aspirations and that no political views from the Serbian or Croat side can`t be considered.

What is important to point out is that the statements of Bosnia`s High Representative Valentin Inzko are in line with the statements of US ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Recently US ambassador to Bosnia, Mr. Eric Nelson stated that he advocates “reforms” for both Dayton agreement and the Bosnian constitution.(2) From decades of experience in the Balkans, when a US ambassador in the Balkans starts advocating for “reforms”, it actually represents an announcement of stronger US engagement, ie, as it is now fashionable to say – at least in the US – interference in internal things of that state.

In the 1990s, when United States was the only super power as a  Cold War winner, the word “reform” had an almost mythical meaning that could not, and should not, be questioned. It was understood that the system of the so-called liberal democracy, was the ultimate winner of the entire process of human history (which Francis Fukuyama proclaimed urbi et orbi in his world-famous essay “The End of History”, published just a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall)  the only one that can set standards for the rest of the world. Therefore, the word “reform” could mean only one thing – changes in the direction of the ideal, only legitimate and acceptable model for US.

Who was not in favor of “reforms” in the direction of an absolutely victorious and, therefore, the only legitimate order of the so-called liberal democracy – political and economic isolation awaited him.  From such a totalitarian and exclusive view of the world, the roots of future “humanitarian” interventions around the world sprouted very quickly.

Donald Trump gained the sympathy of the Serbs because he had promised not to interfere in the internal questions of other countries and because the entire mandate, including the just-concluded elections, he was under attack by the establishment, the deep state and the big media. However, objectively his administration continued to bother Serbia with the recognition of Kosovo and Republic of Srpska with a united Bosnia. He blocked the gas pipelines and the Silk Road to the Serbian protectors, the Russians and the Chinese. However, the change in the US administration towards the Serbs was obvious. During the Trump administration, the facts were taken into account that Serbs and Americans were allies in the two world wars and that certain Serbian interests in the Balkans should be taken into account.

On the other side, Bosniaks are celebrating Biden’s victory as if it were an election in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The reason is simple, Joe Biden was one of the main lobbyists for the bombing of Serbs in the 1990s. And when NATO started the bombing, Joe Biden celebrated publicly. It was the NATO bombing of Republika Srpska in 1995 that forced Serbs to stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosniak political leaders now hope that when Biden become president of the United States, he will force Serbs to “compromise“ again.

However, it should be borne in mind that this is no longer a unipolar world in which the United States is the only superpower. And that Trump’s policy is not the cause but an expression of the crisis of American society. That Trumpism will outlive Trump, which means, turning America away from the world towards itself, returning industry from abroad to the country for domestic unemployment and not interfering in the internal affairs of other states. In other words, America can no longer pursue the policies it pursued in the Balkans in the 1990s. However, without a doubt, with the arrival of Biden, the American administration, in accordance with its power, will put additional pressure on the Serbs in favor of Bosniaks and unitary Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Covid-19 Started in Italy, in September 2019, Not in China in December

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The covid-19, or coronavirus-19, virus didn’t start in Wuhan China in December 2019, as has been widely reported till now. This new or “novel” virus was first infecting people in Italy, by no later than September 2019, according to researchers at the Italian Association for Cancer Research, and published on November 11th, as Current Research, by the National Tumors Institute of the Italian Ministry of Health.

This study is titled “Unexpected detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the pre-pandemic period in Italy”. It reports that:

“The first surge of positive cases was identified in September-October 2019. Evaluation of anti-SARS-CoV-2 functional NAbs identified positive samples in CPE-based microneutralization tests already collected in October 2019. Given the temporal delay between infection and antibody synthesis, these results indicate that the virus circulated in Italy well before the detection of the declared index patient in February 2020. In addition, most of the first antibody-positive individuals lived in regions where the pandemic started.”

In other words: though the first officially noticed covid-19-infected Italians were in February 2020, there had been covid-19-infected people in Italy starting by no later than September 2019. Consequently, one reason why Italy was one of the three most covid-19-infected nations as early as 1 March 2020 (right behind China and South Korea), might be that China and South Korea were the first two countries that noticed this new virus. On 31 January 2020, Italy suspended all flights to and from China and declared a state of emergency, but 26 February 2020 was the first date when Italy reported covid-19 cases, and there were already 147 in Italy on that date. The Italian Government explained its sudden cessation of air-flights by saying that a Chinese couple from Wuhan had arrived in Italy on January 23rd and became diagnosed with the new disease on January 30th. China had started reporting cases already a month earlier, on 23 January 2020: 259 of them. Within two weeks thereafter, China’s leaders established total  lockdown and intensive nationwide searches to find possible cases that they had previously missed; so, on February 12th, there was an enormous spike in China’s known cases, 14,108 of them, reported on that date. That number declined down to 573 new daily cases on February 29th. No number even close to that number (573) has been reported after that date in China.

Two weeks after 1 March, on 15 March 2020, Italy had by far the world’s highest intensity of coronavirus infections as calculated at that time, at the rate of 409.3 cases per million residents, and China had 56.2 cases per million. (U.S. had 11.1 per million.) However, the tiny nation of San Marino, which is surrounded within Italy, had 109 total cases, and only 34,232 population (which was too small for that nation to have been included among the ones which were then being calculated); so, that’s a per-million rate of 3,184 infections per million, which was actually (and by far) the world’s highest rate of covid-infections, at that time. Consequently: the first person who became infected by this virus could well have been a San Marinan, instead of an Italian.

As more research is done, regarding this virus, the actual geographical source of it could turn out to be any country, because international travel and tourism are now commonplace, which was not formerly so. Maybe the Italian cases in September 2019 had resulted from a foreign visitor, instead of from an Italian. In the future, global pandemics will likely be far more frequent than in earlier history, but technology (such as vaccines) and the world adjusts so that there might not be a higher percentage of the global population dying from plagues than has been so in the past. Making predictions on the basis of the latest prior mega-pandemic, which was the Spanish flu of 1918-1920, might not be entirely appropriate. The Spanish flu most likely started in America, not in Spain, but, according to Wikipedia, “To maintain morale, World War I censors minimized these early reports. Newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain, such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII, and these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit. This gave rise to the name ‘Spanish’ flu. Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify with certainty the pandemic’s geographic origin, with varying views as to its location.” In other words, what the masses of the public believe at any given time can be shaped by the government and by its newspapers and broadcasters, simply by hiding facts that the people who actually control the country don’t want the public to know. Censorship is the core of dictatorship, and almost all countries are actually dictatorships, but the news-media there censor-out that fact, instead of publishing it. So, the reality of censorship is, itself, hidden from the public, in order for the people who control the government to control the masses so that the nation can be called a “democracy.” That’s important for them to do in order to minimize the percentage of the population they’ll need to imprison. However, the United States already has a higher percentage of its residents in prison than does any other country; and, so, its news-media are especially highly censored, in order to be able to prevent an outright revolution. Forcing both the body and the mind could turn out to be too much, but apparently the individuals who are in control feel they need to go that far, in order to remain in control.

But, regardless, any politician who calls covid-19 “the Wuhan virus” or “the China virus” is expressing that person’s agenda, instead of anything about reality, since the actual first case of this disease could have appeared anywhere.

(NOTE: The “gain-of-function” hypotheses, and evidence of Chinese bio-warfare research being funded by the Pentagon and participated in by Canada, do raise questions, which should be answered; but more basic than whether this virus was natural or instead man-made, is precisely where and how it first got released out into the public. We don’t yet really know the answer even to that extremely important question — a question which must be answered BEFORE one can even begin to address the question of whether that event was natural or instead military. This is the basic question, and its answer is still unknown. It’s the first question that must be answered before anything else can become known about how the global pandemic started.)

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