‘The world is fast approaching the tolerance limit’ feared by some religio-political figures. This feeling was enhanced further by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and further fueled by the US’s Invasion of Afghanistan and later of Iraq. Although it appears as a war for greater power in Asia between US and its unseen rivals, it has also caused people to think that in the wake of no visible threat from this region what made US take such a serious step that left behind hundreds of thousands of dead, injured and homeless innocent Iraqis and Afghans.
Most fear it will ultimately lead to an all out war or the third world war — God forbid. This time, they argue, it won’t be caused because of a feeling of superiority or inferiority, a feeling for greater power and not even oil and energy resources (as in the case of 1st and 2nd WWs).
It will rather be a war caused because of the difference in western and eastern civilizations that can’t weld together in a common space and time. Further, they had never ever been so closely associated with one another on such a large scale as that of today’s globalized village.
When anyone talks of clash of civilizations, the questions that come to my mind are: What’s civilization? Do civilized people really fight? And I find no answer that can lead me to believe that oh! Really civilized people do fight. But what kind of a fight? Does it have to be a legitimate or not? Because as the extent of my knowledge helps me I can’t remember any civilized society that has ever chanted war or a clash with the other civilized society.
And that’s where my mind gets stuck. And then comes to my mind an idea that only ignorance can lead to war. What kind of an ignorance in this knowledge world since the world knows more things than it ever did. Still there are large vacuums to be filled. Vacuums created out of ignorance, a vacuum that can cause a blast at the price of the whole humanity. This ignorance is about people of different cultures and civilizations.
Although the world is a much more knowledge based one today than it ever has been, still people haven’t come that close to know about each other as needed to avoid a clash. For example, How good does the west understand Islam? How good do Muslims know about Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Communism etc? To be honest, the level of understanding of the warring factions named above is zero. The west merely knows that a Muslim is a person who offers prayers as Muslim do.
They restrict a Muslim to mosque or certain Muslim rituals. While the Muslims in greater majority don’t even bother to know about the west and its people probably most influenced with the words of some kind of a religious extremist who believes the reading of holy books or writings of other religions are not tolerable or simple is a committed sin.
In such a world of ignorance what can a sensible person expect of the two worlds? What will lead what? Will ignorance lead to war or civilization? Interestingly no world leader can be seen to talk on this part except one Muslim Spiritual leader, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, who is the spiritual leader (Imam) of 15-20 million Ismaili Muslims worldwide since 1957.
He has time and again mentioned in his talks and interviews and reiterated the need for the world to remove this curtain of ignorance. Instead according to him, the west needs to know more about Islam and Muslims need to know about the west. Doesn’t this view hold more optimism in a more peaceful world? Do we really need to look in this direction?
The coming time shall soon judge as to what direction had the wise leaders needed to take. It’s their choice whether to choose a path that leads to clash or that leads to harmonious understanding and co-existence of the western world with its eastern counterpart. Yet, the truth of the matter is that the world needs to know pluralism and diversity and adopt it. The sooner they come to this term, I believe the faster shall we be heading towards a more peaceful world.