An Alliance of Civilizations?

Any effort to bridge differences between the Islamic world and the West by defending moral relativism are doomed. Tolerance and religious freedom must be mutual, and Muslims must stop deluding themselves that the Arab-Israeli conflict lies at the root of the problem.

MADRID – The first International Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations, conceived as an antidote to the idea that the world is doomed to a “clash of civilizations,” recently met in Madrid and revealed that there is more than a grain of truth in Robert Kagan’s idea that Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus. Ever since September 11, 2001, the United States has been engaged in a crusade against the forces of evil in the Muslim world. By contrast, the March 11, 2004, terrorist attack on Spain, which left 200 dead, triggered an “anti-crusade” that seeks to disarm extremism by building bridges of understanding and reconciliation with Islam.

Co-sponsored by Spain and Turkey, the Alliance of Civilizations initiative is not devoid of political calculation. To the Spaniards, it helps to justify their abrupt withdrawal from Iraq in 2004; for the Turks, it is yet another vehicle in their struggle, as the vital bridge between Islam and the West, for admission into the European Union.

A loose and somewhat confused project, the Alliance of Civilizations aims to heal the wounds of conflict between Islam and the West through education, viable integration policies, and a better-informed dialogue with the media. But it suffers from the major global players’ profound skepticism, with the US, Russia, and, for that matter, the EU shown no real enthusiasm for it.

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