In a New York Times article by David Brooks, Samuel Huntington’s essay, “The Clash of Civilizations” is called into question. As some of us may recall from our book, Huntington expected a “hardening of divisions between ‘civilizational spheres’- defined as a loose admixture of nation states, geographical regions, religious identities…- between the Christian humanist West, the Islamic Middle East, and the Confucian cultures of East Asia.” (p.162) Brooks writes,

“The Islamic civilization, [Huntington] wrote, is the most troublesome. People in the Arab world do not share the general suppositions of the Western world. Their primary attachment is to their religion, not to their nation-state. Their culture is inhospitable to certain liberal ideals, like pluralism, individualism and democracy….[Huntington] argued that people in Arab lands are intrinsically not nationalistic. He argued that they do not hunger for pluralism and democracy in the way these things are understood in the West. But it now appears as though they were simply living in circumstances that did not allow that patriotism or those spiritual hungers to come to the surface…. It now appears that people in these nations, like people in all nations, have multiple authentic selves….Over the past weeks, we’ve seen Arab people ferociously attached to their national identities. We’ve seen them willing to risk their lives for pluralism, openness and democracy…. it seems clear that many people in Arab nations do share a universal hunger for liberty. They feel the presence of universal human rights and feel insulted when they are not accorded them.” (

Although Brooks makes a couple of good points, it almost seems as though some do not follow politics as well as they may think. The United States (and the West, in general) prides itself on being democratic, free and progressive and yet it is this Western and liberal way of thinking that hypocritically supported conditions that did not enable democracy to thrive in the Arab world. Who are we to say what others want? I find it ironic that Brooks mentions these “universal aspirations for dignity, for political systems that listen to, respond to and respect the will of the people.” We claim to be so open-minded and yet many of us ignorantly use ‘Arab’ and ‘Muslim’ interchangeably – if that doesn’t say enough.  Even as we have an ample supply of our own problems in our Western countries (ahem USA), we are so quick to assume we know what is best for another country or claim to know when people are “insulted” or “hungry for liberty” and “openness”. Yes- clearly, some nations have not been happy with their government but does that really mean that they yearn for Western style democracy?

Despite the fact that the article was not explicitly about any one particular nation in Africa & the Middle East and/or the protests that came about, I find it unfortunate that the role that media have played with the social/political changes we have been seeing have been overlooked – in my opinion, too much was overlooked.




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