The extremely popular yet controversial thesis has been dismissed by many intellectuals, yet thirty years since its inception, it is a reality in India
Samuel P Huntington, the Harvard university political scientist and sociologist is known for his popular yet controversial thesis ‘Clash of Civilisations’ which he wrote in the form of an essay for The Foreign Affairs Magazine in 1993, following its ubiquitous acceptance, he wrote a book titled-Clash of Civilisations & Remaking of World Order in 1996. This thesis asserts that with the end of the cold war, new conflicts both at the micro and macro level will be fought no longer over ideology, but religion and culture. He highlighted that religion will be the driving force in the post-cold war world.
He asserted that western arrogance, Islamic revivalism & Chinese assertiveness will be the driving force in such a clash. While this was dismissed by many scholars and world leaders simply as wishful thinking and a hoax at best, this thesis has become prophetic, at least if the Bharatiya context is concerned.
Bharat, the land of diversity, multiculturalism and multi-ethnic land is known for its accommodating spirit which encourages dissent, tolerance and debate as the way forward to encourage diverse points of view. This has been highlighted by Jawaharlal Nehru in The Discovery of India.
However, that accommodating spirit is facing an existential threat in the form of a clash between civilisations, between the Indic civilisation & Radical Islam or Islamism.
Indic civilisation- an ocean of thought
The term Indic may appear quite confusing for any layman. Indic civilisation denotes the religions, cultures and ways of life which developed in the Indian subcontinent or has developed outside the subcontinent but has Indian roots or Indian connection. Indic civilisation therefore includes the religions of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism etc.
Judaism & Zoroastrianism despite being foreign faiths can be understood as a part of the Indic civilisation thanks to their successful assimilation in the Indian society and the emergence of several unique subcontinental practices. Indic civilisation is an ocean of thought, it is an amalgamation of ideas which is aimed at cultivating a spirit of dissent, tolerance and debate aimed at arriving at a consensus for the societal betterment. Indic civilisation is not only about religion, but is a code of conduct outlined in the Dharmashastras. Chanakya in Arthashastra had talked of four purusharthas or four principal aims of life which are- dharma, artha, kama & moksha. This is broadly applicable towards all of the Indic faiths.
The Indic civilisation aims to not proselytize people, but to enlighten them to lead a good life, to lead a life in observation of dharma not in the religious sense but from a sense of fulfilling duties and responsibilities in life.
This is, however, best reflected in Hinduism. Shashi Tharoor in his book The Hindu Way- An Introduction to Hinduism had highlighted the fact that Indians and Indic civilisation individuals are henotheists i.e., we do not reject other religions, they have their own version of the truth, we have ours. But the principal objective is to arrive at a confluence of sorts, whose outcome will be to develop the universal truth shorn of any conservatism.
Radical Islam or Islamism- a hydra headed monster
Islam, which originated in Arabia some 1400 years ago, is the world’s second fastest growing major religion. However, among all the Abrahamic faiths, radical Islam is the most controversial. Radical Islam refers to a school of thought in Islam which is based on the puritanical Wahabbi and Salafi sects drawing their inspiration from the Hanafi school of thought in Sunni Islam. Radical Islam’s principal aim is to purge the religion of all innovations & restore its pristine nature as it existed in the time of the Prophet in the 7th century.
J Sai Deepak in his second book of the Bharat Trilogy- India, Bharat & Pakistan- the constitutional journey of a sandwiched civilisation has given a detailed description of what Wahabbism and its Indian export Dehlawite Islam stands for- purging the religion of any Sufi influence which encourages devotional singing like Qawwali, visiting the tomb of saints. Further, it prohibits the inclusion of influences of infidel faiths like Hinduism, this is evident from Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor banning the Jharoka dharshan which was a Hindu custom. Also, it encourages scriptural literalism i.e., strict observation of the various verses of the Quran & Hadith in all spheres of life, it doesn’t at all encourage moving as forward as time progresses.
Huntington had in its mind the radicalness of Wahabbi Islam when he wrote that seminal piece. This is proving to be prophetic as the rise of the Al-Qaeda, ISIS and their pan Islamist appeal seems to show. Robert Spencer in his book The History of Jihad-from Muhammed to ISIS has given a detailed description of the history of Jihad in the ISIS period that draws its inspiration from the Wahabbi brand of radical Islam.
The Bharatiya context
Radical Islam’s menace has had historic trajectory in Bharat. The Turkic followed by the Mughal rule in India highlight that. While left-wing historians will paint a picture of peaceful co-existence, but the reality is that there never was any peaceful co-existence. People of Indic faiths were proselytized, persecuted and had to lose their indigeneity to what J Sai Deepak calls ‘Middle Eastern Coloniality’.
This coloniality is alarmingly present and kicking in Bharat. Islamism or radical Islam is trying to actively undermine the Indic civilisation and its adherents, this is evident from the Pakistani sponsored ethno-religious terrorism in J&K. To counter this, Hindutva has taken shape. Hindutva, contrary to the gross misperception that it encourages Hindu fundamentalism, is a socio-civilisational manifestation of defending the Indic way of life which lies at the heart of Bharatiyata.
It is here that the clash of civilisations is taking place between Hindutva & Islamism, while both appear to have political undertones, yet they are clearly a manifestation of their religio-cultural settings. Hindutva is aimed preserving the Bharatiya spirit, while Islamism seeks to undermine it.
Therefore, it is high time that the Indian populace recognize the seriousness of the situation and understand the thesis whose understanding is so essential to preserve the Bharatiya way of life and choices.