Just after the end of the Cold War in 1990, one of the most celebrated political scientists, Samuel Huntington, authored an article in the Journal of Foreign Affairs under the title: The Clash of Civilizations.
The good old professor hypothesised that after the Cold War (wherein nations were pitted against one another along the lines of the ideologies of East and West – the East represented by the then Soviet-led Marxist-Leninist system and the West represented by the liberal capitalist system, led by the United States) the conflicts in the new world would no longer be ideological as before, but cultural.
He argued that whereas the ideological Cold war was not between nation states per se, but between economic interests, in the new world the nation states would assert themselves more strongly culturally and religiously.
In more ways than one, Huntington leaned toward the conclusion that the new world would have its own war, which he termed a clash of civilizations: with Islam on the one side and Christianity on the other.
An Indian Islamic scholar, M.J. Akbar, agreed with this hypothesis and concluded that the new frontier of international confrontation would come mainly from the Muslim world.
This thesis was given credence on more than one occasion. For instance, on September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave a lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany in which he made reference to older authors who argued on the efficacies of war in the name of religion, such as the modern Jihad.
As a leader of Catholic Christians, the Pope articulated a fundamentally Christian doctrine, namely that violence is incompatible with the nature of God. By reference to other scholars, he argued it is not the same with the Muslim faith, in so far as the practice of violence in the name of religion is concerned. This lecture angered the Muslim community so much that death threats were made against the Pope, a Catholic nun in Somalia was killed and several Christians were threatened in different places in the world.
The Pope had to apologise to stem the tide of anger and threats of violence. The point is that there is a fundamentalism in the Muslim community, which is not matched by an equal fundamentalism in the Christian community. One could safely say that if this reality existed, conflict of the sort that Huntington spoke about would bring about a world war sooner.
In 1989, another political scientist and a student of Huntington, Francis Fukuyama published an essay, The End of History?, in the international affairs journal, The National Interest, wherein he proposed that the collapse of the Cold War represented an end point in history as we knew it.
Fukuyama expanded on his thesis in a book he brought out in 1992, The End of History and the Last Man. Both these scholars offered theories to assist policy makers plan their affairs in the changing world, anticipating as it were, what was possible in human affairs, based upon human experiences in earlier times.
Many people still believe that the lines between Christianity and Islam, unless dealt with honesty that has not been witnessed thus far, could generate the next international conflict. What seems to mitigate the conflict at the moment is the fact that Christianity lacks the fundamentalist fervour that Islam has in many sectors in the Arab world and Afrika, the likes of ISIS in Syria and Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria.
The fact remains that there is a clash between the past and the future. Where the past and the future intersect is the beginning of the end, and there are casualties, always.
The Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci warned that such crises are part of the human condition when he opined that the catchment area is: ‘precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear’. We can all see the old world dying, yet we cannot see the new one, for it is still struggling to come into being.
What do we make of Huntington and Fukuyama’s theses of clashes of civilisations and the end of history, while we witness disturbing events unfold before our eyes? Could it be true that the Third World War is coming, perhaps?
Are the two major world religions, Christianity and Islam (with Judaism-cum-Zionism in between fueling the situation for opportunistic purposes) on a potential collision cause? Will the next globalised conflict be a war fought along people’s unbendable religious convictions?
Or is the end of the world as we know it approaching to fulfill in a way the biblical prophesies, such as Matthew 24:7 ‘Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.’ Are we living in times of these warnings, or are we witnessing false alarms?
In our current human condition in the so-called post-modern world we live in, there is an eschatological sense that the signs of an impending cessation of the world are everywhere.
One does not have to be a religious fanatic to begin to wonder about the meaning of all the chaos and senseless mayhem going on around the world. Is the end of history upon us?
Consider the following:
• November 1989 thousands of people in the then East Europe with conviction that fundamental freedoms were essential and no longer negotiable, used chisels, hammers and picks to bring down the Berlin Wall, the then Iron Curtain that divided the world in two ideological camps of Capitalism and Communism and their respective satellites;
• The wars and ethnic skirmishes in the former Soviet Republics and the ethnic cleansing in Bhutan, Nagorno–Karabakh, Kuwait, Croatia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Rwanda, Burundi, Sri-Lanka, Chechnya, Lebanon, Sudan, to mention but a few;
• The unending conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, which find expressions in Intifada on the on hand and a series of Shabak interventions on the other;
• The September 11, 2001 terror attacks on America, which to all intents and purposes altered the nature of foreign relations for a very long time to come;
• The July 7, 2005, London terror attacks on underground trains and buses;
• The November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks;
• The April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing;
• The January 7, 2015 Charlie Hebdo terror shootings in Paris;
In Nigeria there have reported over 280 terror-related incidents in 2015 alone;
• The Paris terror attacks of this week. The list goes on.
• There is no doubt that these violent expressions, especially coming from the Muslim extremist sectors that continue to radicalize, are part of globalisation which started at the time Huntington and Fukuyama were theorising about the new world and its attendant contradictions.
As the global ideological alliances ended or shifted new patterns of us versus them entered the world body politic. New lines were being drawn in the sand, and we are witnessing some of the expressions thereof. It would be naive not to anticipate further conflicts between Christianity and Islam in the modern world, which is looking for meaning.
As much as we would like to believe otherwise, these two religions are very different: in their orientation, approach to conflict and diversity management, pathways to heaven, political civilisation, conflict resolution and international outreach operations. The two religions’ approach to and appreciation of death are fundamentally different.
For instance, Christians do not like to die, even though they know that one cannot enter heaven without dying first. When Christians are ill, they pray to God to spare them from dying, which is the only way to get to heaven.
Muslims have peace with death, better yet if they die in the name of for the cause of Allah, in operations commonly known as Jihad. There was a time in history when Christian missionaries, the Zealots, killed in the process of converting others, the non-believers, to their faith.
The word “kaffer” for instance comes from these times when non-believers were considered lesser persons. Kaffir is an Arabic word for a non-believer or a person who has not yet embraced the new faith. Christian zealots conquered the world with violence, and burned people who practiced what they considered dark and devilish.
Part of the Quranic message of conquering the world is through a book to point the way, and the sword. So somewhere, these religions intersect and express themselves differently. It is a matter of how fundamentalist they are and what constitutes the cannon fodder of their anger and frustration at any given point.
The main difference, therefore, is the level of fundamentalism. Christians have over the years become less fundamentalist and more secular, whereas Muslims by virtue of the Islamic orthodoxy of surrender, have less room for secularism and, therefore, remain more fundamentalist, more committed to their faith and when “provoked” can take drastic measures individually, collectively or even internationally to ‘defend the faith’.
Even better to die in defense of the faith! Very few Christians are willing to kill, never mind die, for their faith today.
Interestingly, recent scholarship suggests that different cultures in the world today have developed different reactions to globalisation in its current form and the effects of globalisation that affect them negatively.
They say that the Asians become more and more creative and expand themselves in the new world. The Arabs become increasingly reactive in their response as they attempt to assert themselves. Alas, the Afrikans remain passive, blame the past and continue to ask for handouts from those they blame for the past ills.
It would appear that in the new world conflict, the Afrikans will, in their passiveness, most likely side with the one who helps best with making them become more dependent. Afrikan leaders went to Paris to march against the violence there and would not do so in Nigeria, where thousands of women and children have been killed.
We saw recently when India convened an India-Africa Forum Summit on October 26-30 that the Afrikan Heads of State (with the exception of Zimbabwe’s Mugabe) were persuaded to, in their collective, wear Indian skirts as an expression of who knows what!
Afrika as a continent and Namibia as a country ought to think about how to prepare for the uncertain times to come for these acts of violence and terrorism that know no borders, but thrive on the hard peace and stability that countries have worked towards.
This calls for a clear separation between church/religion and state. Inasmuch as we must allow freedom of worship and conscience, the domain of the state must be protected from religious dogmas of any sort, because we are a secular state.
It is the self-righteousness of religious dogmas that lead to intolerance and eventual armed conflict. Our religious convictions, however strong, must NOT be imposed onto the functions and responsibilities of the state, or onto those who do not share them.
When we work in the government, anywhere, we follow the rules of the state under the Constitution of the Republic, not our denominational doctrines and precepts. This is so, because if allowance is made for one group not to do certain things because of religion, it puts others at a disadvantage.
Before we know it, one would be feeling that their faith is under attack and the rest is history. A Republic is a house wherein all feel the same and equal, to paraphrase President Geingob’s metaphor of the Namibian House.