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05.04.2017 Author: Veniamin Popov

The Divide Between the West and the Islamic World is Getting Dangerously Deep

23423123123The 21st century, which began with the horrendous terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, has been marked by a deepening division of civilizations – the struggle between which is exacerbated by the crisis that the West experiences.

Under these conditions in order to maintain their dominant position in the world, Western states would not hesitate a minute to launch armed interventions against sovereign countries, which has been clearly demonstrated by the invasions of Libya and Iraq, or by the financial and material that Washington has been providing to various extremist organizations in a bid to topple governments all over the Middle East, with Syria being the most vivid example.

As a matter of fact, both Islamist extremist and Western powers are aggravating a deepening divide along civilizational and confessional lines by starting new conflicts and crises. In certain moments one can have an impression that they’re acting in tune, even though their stated goals are different.

The manifestation of the above mentioned divide come in different forms. In fact, Washington’s aggressive actions in the Middle East have backfired, triggering a set of complex phenomena in a number of industrially developed countries. As it’s been noted by one of the brightest British political analysts Andrei Ostalski, Western military adventures in Iraq and Syria have resulted in the the growth of terrorism and an unprecedented flow of refugees to the EU. This gave rise to a paranoid fear of terror and emigration that is radically changing public opinion in the West. One can safely assume that without all sorts of reports about a string of terrorist attacks and refuge flows, there would be no Brexit, no growth of nationalism in the US, no risk of the rapid destruction of the liberal foundations of modern Western civilization.

It is noteworthy that in Davos, at the World Economic Forum in mid-January 2017, a number of participants voiced a concern about the growing distrust that countries of the world have towards each other, especially against Western states. It’s also been noted that if after the Second World War migrants were considered as a fresh blood of a society, today they are accused of looting social security benefits, increase in crime and security threat levels.

Today, only the lazy won’t be willing to discuss the failure of the values of multiculturalism in its classic form, when people would fit into the framework of the existing society, becoming equal citizens, while at the same time being encouraged by the state to preserve their national identity.

The terrorist attacked committed in the UK on March 22, 2017, that left 4 persons killed and some 30 more injured has not just shocked the Great Britain, but Europe as well. The reaction of the Londoners was vocal, with local communities claiming that multiculturalism has outlived itself, for it essentially means the desire not just to live, but to die together.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric in Western media is constantly gaining steam. At the same time, the statements of politicians that openly attack Islam are being massively circulated by the absolute majority of MSN sources. At the forefront of this hate talks is the leader of the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, Gert Wilders, who has recently attracted the attention of the media by claiming that all these terrible last year’s attacks in Germany and in Europe is an expression of Islam. This politicians seems to be convinced that if Westerners won’t protect themselves against Islam in all of its forms, it will put an end to the existence of the Netherlands and the whole Western world.

And as if the tensions between the West and the Islamic world weren’t high enough, an unpredictable scandal broke out in relations between the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey, which further complicated the situation. Last month, once two Turkish ministers were banned from conducting an election campaign in Germany, Tayyip Erdogan accused the country of following the practice of Nazism. With such accusations, Erdogan also attacked the Dutch authorities, calling The Hague “the capital of fascism.”

The New York Times is convinced that Turkey decided to got engaged in this an ugly quarrel with Europe solely for Erdogan’s desire to gain even more local nationalist support on the eve of the constitutional referendum of April 16, 2017.

In turn, a number of leading German politicians protested against the transformation of Germany in a playing field for Turkish politicians since, as they are convinced, this creates preconditions for authoritarianism. Moreover, a number of member countries of the EU pledged their support to the Netherlands, which banned Turkish politicians from delivering public speeches in the country.

The American media fears that Erdogan’s militarism will only play into the hands of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim supporters in the Netherlands, and this will subsequently affect the elections in France in April and May, as well as Germany’s elections in September 2017.

The US Journal Middle East Forum would even describe the situation as Erdogan’s war against the West.

In mid-March, the European Court of Justice adopted a decision according to which local entrepreneurs are not allowed to hire women dressed in traditional Muslim clothes. As might be expected, populist politicians welcomed this decision, and religious Muslim organizations in European states called this step a legalization of open discrimination of Muslims. Such a decision, most likely, can lead to an increase in domestic problems in European societies, because it concerns all EU countries.

The head of Russia’s Chechnya region, Ramzan Kadyrov, called the decision of the European Court of Justice a declaration of a war on Islam.

The head of the International Refugee Committee (who is an Englishman) believes that the refusal of Western countries to host Syrian refugees is a propaganda gift to those who claim that Muslims can not trust America and other Western countries.

The civilizational gap between the Western world and the faithful followers of Islam (the number of which reaches 1.7 billion people across the globe) is deepening rapidly. For many EU leaders, Islam is becoming a major problem, as it’s been noted the sitting French President François Hollande.

Against this background, it curious that Russia, continues enjoying its multinational and multi-confessional existence, where relations between citizens that adhere to different religious is traditionally based on mutual respect and common sense.

Veniamin Popov, Director of the Center for Partnership of Civilizations at MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.” 

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