Tuesday, February 06, 2007
CLASH OF CIVILISATIONS?
highly anticipated debate took place last month in London, at the invitation of Mayor Ken Livingston, as a part of a conference he had organised to discuss Samuel Huntington's thesis from his book "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order." The Mayor invited the American scholar of the Middle East, Daniel Pipes to debate this issue with him.
There was apparently an "unprecedented demand" for tickets to the event at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, and Dr. Pipes was informed by the Mayor's office that more than 5,000 people had secured their seats for the event, and that more than 150 media representatives had registered.
The debate took place on January 20, and since then practically no media organisations have chosen to report on it. The moderator of the event was one of the BBC's star presenters, Gavin Esler, yet even the BBC had nothing to say (in English - they published a piece on their Arabic service). The Greater London Authority, which sponsored the event, both recorded and transcribed the debate, but it appears that neither of these are about to be made public for some reason.
It isn't quite true though, to say that there was no media interest after the fact. There was a write-up in the New York Sun, for one, and in an Indian paper called The Daily Pioneer, for two. Also offering post-debate coverage were the global powerhouse newsmagazines, National Review and Weekly Standard. Given the evidence that BBC had a reporter present (for their Arabic service), that leaves 145+ media representatives who were there and decided it wasn't worth writing about (I would love to see that registration list).
The principal debaters each invited a seconder to participate, and these were Birmingham city councillor Salma Yaqoob for Livingston, and London writer Douglas Murray for Pipes. The debate did not follow precisely with Mayor Ken's proposed theme, which was "World Civilisation or Clash of Civilisations?" Both of those proposals would seem to posit one side of the current conflict -- the political ideology that I've referred to as Islamist Fascism (to differentiate from "Islam", "Muslim" or "Islamic" which refer to a religious belief system) -- as either "a civilisation" or a part of "world civilisation."
Every Muslim I know personally, and there are lots and lots, are part of the civilised world. That is, they are Muslims and they believe in living in a civilised way, accepting others who have different beliefs. For that reason, I can confidently include Islam, the religious faith, as a part of "world civilisation." Islamist Fascism places itself outside this umbrella, this biggest of all "big tents." The conflict we have in this modern world is not between civilisations, but between world civilisation(s) and anti-civilisation. For if "anti-civilisation" doesn't accurately describe the Islamist Fascist movement, then the root word "civil" has lost all its meaning.
Daniel (Pipes) went into the (Red) Lion's Den, and as anyone who knows his writing will have understood at the outset, he didn't demonise Islam or Muslims. It's not what he does. He is however, quite familiar with being demonised himself, frequently hounded by baying "radicals" from speaking engagements on US campuses, and worse. One would easily have expected a harsh reception for him on "Red Ken's" home turf, the audience perhaps overwhelmingly "listing to port" and expecting to see one of those fabled Great Horned NeoCons.
It seems that reason and logic, in this instance, won the day. A couple of intemperate remarks by the "progressive" side of the aisle probably didn't help their cause either. Melanie Phillips writes:
The victory by Pipes and Murray was surely a development of no small significance in these savage and degraded times. Here were two neoconservatives, both staunch anti-jihadis and robust supporters of Israel and America, making the case to thousands of progressives in a left-wing bear-pit that London’s very own version of Che Guevara was helping promote and endorse an evil ideology — and the audience, which might have been assumed to be viscerally anti-America, anti-neocon and anti-Israel duly turned not on them but on Livingstone.I sure wish I could have seen it. Or that any of the dozens of professional recordings that must have been made by all those high-powered media present, might be aired somewhere. Or leaked! How about some leakers?
Nah, we all know why this suddenly became "not such a big deal" after the fact. There won't be any leakers, there won't be any Frontline or Panorama programs on it. But it does seem that a few minds may have been changed, which is nothing to sneeze at. Melanie again:
The second reflection is that, despite all the opprobrium that fashionable opinion generally heaps upon the Pipes/Murray view of the world, despite all the name-calling of ‘Islamophobe’ and all the rest of it, below the surface at least some people have clearly been listening hard and thinking for themselves. They have undoubtedly noted that the Islamists are not exactly committed to fundamental human rights, and that the alliance between sections of the left and those committed to the genocide of the Jews, the killing of homosexuals, the beating of women and the extinction of individual liberty is as loathsome as it is lethal. In other words, opinion has shifted. That’s why they cheered. And that is immensely cheering.Yes, it really, really is. And while the establishment information providers practically ignored it (to repeat, only after the fact), bloggers and others have provided accounts and analysis. On Dr. Pipes own post-debate roundup on his blog, he offers some interesting background to the event, and a good listing of articles which were produced on various websites.
Given the bashfulness of the media to share their stuff, we are fortunate that at least one other person present had a camera and isn't too selfish to share. Unfortunately, he didn't have a tripod, but fortunately he did YouTube much of it. Your humble correspondent found the eight parts, and put them into a playlist for your enjoyment. Here then, is the World Civilisation Debate, with a handy guide to the contents if you should choose to be discerning, and short on time.
Parts 1 & 2 - Ken Livingston's opening statement
Parts 3 & 4 - Daniel Pipes' opening statement.
Part 5 - Salma Yaqoob's seconder's statement.
Part 6 - Douglas Murray's seconder's statement.
Parts 7 & 8 - Questions and Answers from the floor.
The jiggly camera may be off-putting, but the audio is the important thing. Dr. Pipes has a very soft-spoken demeanor, so some of his argument may be inaudible, a fault rectified by his provision of a transcript of this section on his blog.
Pay close attention midway through part 4, when he refers to the "common cause" which many "progressives" wish to make with the Islamists. He cites a quotation from the playwrite Harold Pinter about the United States (generating wild applause and shouting from the audience), as a lead-in to a quote by Osama bin Laden. Upon mention of that name, the applause abruptly ceases. It's hilarious, for when the quote is read, Osama says exactly the same thing in slightly different words. Pipes challenges the audience with the juxtaposition, and a good number of them applaud for Osama.