About 50 people have been killed in an what appears to be a lone wolf attack in Orlando, United States. Scores have been injured.. The attacker, a 29 year old Afghan American, who was later killed by the police had claimed allegiance to the Islamic State(IS).The attack comes at a time when the Islamic State is in a bit of trouble and has had to suffer losses-both territorial and in terms of loss of its cadre; it also happened when the United States is in the throes of election where Donald Trump, the Republicans presidential candidate has been openly espousing an anti Muslim rhetoric amidst a climate of if not hostility to but angst about Islam and Muslims across the Western world.
While the attacks would validate Clash of Civilizations from the attack, but the reality might be more prosaic. Given the choice of targets, the attacks could be said to be a clash of values. The value system of Islam and the West is very different but given the forces unleashed by globalization, Islam and the West find themselves enmeshed in a post colonial encounter through immigrant and other flows. This encounter will naturally lead to frisson and friction but speaking from a normative perspective, should not lead to violence. In the least, a Modus Vivendi need to be found between Islam and the West whose nature could lead to peace co-existence.
Another set of issues is raised by the Orlando attacks. The attacker may or may not have be part of the IS but appears to have been inspired by it. The attack also is overlaid by violence and chaos in the Middle East. The inference that can be drawn here is that the world is at war. And there is no such thing as comprehensive security. No amount of insulation or distance from what have been called zones of anarchy can prevent spill over of insecurity to other societies and countries. The so called post Cold War peace dividend has not materialized. In terms of the assertion of the world at war, it needs to be qualified. The nature of war in the 21st century is that of asymmetric war and this condition in all likelihood will endure. And now risk and uncertainty could be held to be defining characteristics of most if not all societies.
Islam and the West are central to this. If there is a clash of values between either, does this mean that all that the world can do is wring hands in helplessness? Not necessarily.
While Islam and the West might be diametrically different in terms of value systems, a paradigm of co-existence can be developed. This paradigm should be informed by appreciation of difference(s) between Islam and the West and neither allow triumphalism or interference into each other. This applies equally to Muslims and the West. Axiomatically, the implied reference here is to a dialogue between Islam and the West. This might , given the drift of the relationship between either clichéd, trite and corny. But there really is no alternative to a robust and deep dialogue. The West must understand that imposing its values, a clear cut example of which is the Second Gulf War, is a non starter and , on our part, We Muslims must take this lesson to heart as well. If there is to be a dialogue, the starting point must be understanding that Islam and the West are different, appreciation of this difference and then articulating each others narrative in the idiom of soft power; not violence. Muslims must also understand that we have severe problems that emanate from within and the need of the hour, is not lashing out but taking recourse to introspection and a conversation with ourselves over the sources of our problems and internal decay. There really is no one to blame out there. Yes: the recent past of the Muslim world has not been salubrious but we need to move on, if for nothing but for the sake of Islam.
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