The sectarian conflagration witnessed in the Islamic world today confirms the fact that there is nothing worse then the clash of civilisations, save for the clash between Islamic sects.
The clash of civilisations which was elaborated upon by Samuel Huntington, a political science professor at Harvard University, took over a large portion of international political thought during the past 15 years.
But these clashes receded partially, and wise people from both the Islamic and Christian Western civilisations were successful in containing it, especially after the successful visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey recently, where he offered prayers while facing towards the Ka’aba in Makkah, side by side with Muslim worshipers.
However, the sectarian unrest is spreading through a wide landmass stretching from Indonesia in the east to Algeria in the west, passing through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan, Iraq and the holiest land in Islam as well.
The clashes between various Islamic sects are deadlier, bloodier and more dangerous than the clash of civilisations. And despite the existence of one God, one Prophet and one Quran, we find Muslims divided into various sects, groups and movements. Their animosities and division have increased with the blatant use of arms and ammunition.
The clash of civilisations was a mere notion, a theory that was open for debate and academic discussions.
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The clash of Islamic sects, on the other hand, is more than a clash of words; it is a real clash and not a theoretical one, which can be dismissed easily.
The clash of civilisations has turned into an Islamic sectarian clash and the confrontations have moved from the external to the internal scene. The enemy within has become more lethal, violent and devastating than all external foes put together.
The Islamic sectarian clashes take many forms, but the most lethal is the growing and bloody sectarian violence in Iraq. The US occupation from one side and the detested Iranian expansion from the other side feed the Islamic sectarian clashes in Iraq. They provide fuel to the conflict and work together on its continuation.
These sectarian clashes result in the death of more than 100 Iraqis every day. An independent and neutral study recently said that 650,000 Iraqis were killed during the last three years.
The bloody sectarian conflict in Iraq is a witness to the increasing sectarian clashes which have taken the place of civilisation clashes.
The violent sectarian clashes in Iraq are not the sole example in the region. Lebanon represents another type of sectarian clash, but unlike Iraq it is still in its political stages.
Lebanon is divided politically into two sections. Muslims in Lebanon are also divided into two sections, especially after Sayed Hassan Nasrallah decided to heat the Lebanese situation and drive the Shiites against the Lebanese government, headed by the Sunni Fouad Al Siniora, who is unjustly accused of being a traitor.
The Islamic clashes in Lebanon are getting worse, paralysing the political life of the country and lowering living conditions. The big danger is that no one can guarantee the clashes will remain in the political and peaceful frame.
We are certain that Lebanon and Iraq are heading towards the precipice. Both are victims of the sectarian clashes that are flourishing throughout the Islamic world.
The sectarian entrenchment in Lebanon is connected to the sectarian clashes which are going on behind the curtains between Tehran and many other Arab and Islamic countries. Iran boasts that it is the spiritual and political centre for all Shiites in the world. Hence, it sees itself as the voice for the Shiites who make up 20 per cent of the world’s Muslim population.
The Islamic sectarian clashes in the region give rise to local sectarian clashes. The two factions look for support from Islamic capitals that have governments run by their respective sects. The countries, in turn, struggle amongst themselves to attain the spiritual and political leadership of the Islamic world.
There are also the fundamentalists in Islam, who sow the seeds of violence throughout the Islamic region. Their terrorist acts are a shame. They greatly endanger the Islamic image in the world and they stand in the way of the Muslims regaining their civilised stance around the globe.
No matter what form the clashes take, the result is one: loss of human resources, loss of funds, exhausting the nation, further dividing it and weakening it on the development and constructional levels.
It is impossible to get out of this very dark tunnel with the ongoing clashes. For if the Islamic world is unable to be at peace internally, how will it live in peace and harmony with the other civilisations?
Before we head towards the dialogue of civilisations, our wise men have to rearrange and tidy up our Islamic house before it crashes down as a result of excessive internal violence.
There has to be a sincere internal initiative to conduct a political and spiritual dialogue between the different groups, sects, leadership and political capitals all around the Islamic world.
It is also high time for the moderate silent majority to regain its control over its destiny and decide their future in a peaceful and democratic manner, away from fundamentalism and violence and refusing the other.
Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah is professor of political science at UAE University, Al Ain.