13.12.2001 | Inna Sukhorukova, Kharkov

A dialog between civilizations


The terrorist acts in the USA convinced everybody that the conflict between civilizations in our world does exist. This conflict is not confined to differences in geography and religion, as some political analysts imagine (or want to imagine). One of the Russian political analysts, an MP, expressed his attitude approximately so: ‘It suffices to have a look at the map to conclude that all terrorist regimes and intentions are confined within the boundaries of the Islamic world’.

Yet, let us listen to what a Serbian from Macedonia said to a Ukrainian interviewer: ‘Americans and the NATO support Moslems, supply arms to them. If the NATO did not stand in our way, we would overcome the provocation in less then no time’. The reaction of traditional opponents – followers of Barkashov and members of the UNA-UNSO – coincide wonderfully: they express their satisfaction caused by the terrorist acts directed against the super-state, myth of whose invulnerability was, on their opinion, ruined. The opinion of the most notorious ‘left’ Ukrainian MP Ms. Vitrenko coincides with the opinion of the lunatic fringe. She also expresses her satisfaction, although no one can suspect her on belonging to Islam.

So, the 21 stcentury began under the slogan: ‘Fundamentalists of all countries, unite!’ Against whom? Against civilization, which advances and ruins (or already ruined) the traditional way of life.

Traditional societies or carriers of traditional (in Vitrenko’s case, totalitarian) outlook cannot help understanding that the world, becoming more united, introducing similar legal norms, making unique standard demands of different countries and their citizens, cut the ground from under their feet, turning members of a community (religious or ideological) into individuals, which remain face to face with global and particular problems that they had no habit of solving. The Serbian national imperial fundamentalism caused – for the umpteenth time – a series of Balkan wars: in Bosnia, Croatia, Kossovo and now in Macedonia. The role of the West – coercion to peace – is certainly understood by the carriers of the imperial outlook as a violence, since they got accustomed to be inhabitants of an empire and cannot think themselves outside this framework. The same type of outlook we can observe in Russian right radicals. And not only in them! The visit of Pope Joann-Paul II to Ukraine vividly demonstrated that the Moscow Patriarchy and its hierarchs are hostile to other forms of Christian belief; they regard the expansion of Catholic or Greek-Catholic churches as a threat to their existence, that is they beforehand consider themselves noncompetitive. The inability to compete, a corner stone of fundamentalism, can be observed, to some or other extent, in all above-listed cases.

The global noncompetitiveness can undermine and already undermines the existing equilibrium in the world. Philosopher Francis Fukuyama buried history too early, in my opinion, since it has not begun yet to treat the conflict between civilizations. Totalitarianism was a brainchild of the Western civilization and the West overcame this disease switching in its immune system: the global approach to humane values, priority of an individual and individual rights. Naturally, having overcome totalitarianism in the Western Hemisphere and having almost destroyed it in the world, the ship of the Western civilization lay over in the opposite direction. Unique standards in the approach to individual rights plus informational and economic expansion caused the opposition namely on the individual level in the above-mentioned countries. If the imperial fundamentalism in Russia and Serbia may be regarded as remaining phenomena, which nonetheless may lead to local wars and conflicts, then religious fundamentalism is flesh of flesh of the activities of the Western civilization. It must be confessed that Islam is not less tolerant (and was even more tolerant in the Middle Ages) than Christianity. Recall, for example, that it was in Islamic countries, where Spanish and Italian Jews, who were persecuted in Europe, saved themselves. Christian communities existed peacefully in Moslem countries. As the youngest of the world religions, Islam absorbed both Judaism and Christianity. Moslems have a cult both of Moses and Jesus. The very syncretism of Islam could not negate the participation of Moslems in world orchestra of cultures. Yet, in the 20 thcentury this tune sounded weaker and weaker. The Western world overcame the Moslem one in all parameters of economic and technical progress. It was unavoidable since individual freedom determined the process. But the Western world appeared incapable of understanding that another way of existence does not violate the world rules, but is a search of the way of existence. A long lasting and incompatible with the Western one. I am repeating: Islam is the youngest world religion and it is still looking for the form of adaptation in the quickly changing world.

We have got accustomed to mix together the terrorist regime of Saddam Hussein, a socialist and outstanding democrat, and a similar looking regime of Muammar Kaddafi in Libya, on the one hand, and the traditional Islamic counties living by laws of the shariat, on the other hand: Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Kuwait and Iran. However, in spite of following the shariat, these countries differ from each other both with traditions and with legislation. What makes these countries nearer to each other and further from the Western countries, is communal, collective consciousness. In these countries an individual is protected in a peculiar way: by family, tribe, religion. Once I happened to talk with an Arab student, who spent several years in Europe and then studied in Kharkov pharmaceutical institute. In Europe she was horrified by the fact that offsprings live separately of their parents, do not help each other and meet mainly on holidays. She was astonished with the solitude of unmarried women, who, in Islamic countries, continue to live within families of, firstly, their parents, and then of their brothers, who have the duty to look after them. Surely, she was struck by a small number of children both in Europe and in our country, and she was overwhelmed with our attitude to mothers with many children. And she was surprised with our disorderly life: by this she meant the absence of the daily rules of traditional behavior equally in Europe and in Ukraine. It goes without saying that the girl was from a wealthy family, where all the children, except the youngest, studied abroad and intended to become professional in their home country. However, in Europe she felt herself lonely and unprotected. It should be noted that she felt herself safer in the USSR of the beginning of the 80s, since the family relations in the USSR were closer and more habitual for her. Yet, it certainly could not be compared with that way of life, to which she got accustomed in Algeria. I have dwelt on this accidental acquaintance on purpose, since I want to point out that most citizens of Moslem countries, especially of those, where regimes were steady, feel themselves prosperous and safe, and they are ready to defend the values of the countries, where they live.

Now let us recall quite another time and quite another country: the Russian Empire, members of the ‘Narodnaya Volya’ and individual terror. The assassination of Alexander II, a czar, who wanted to reform the country and to introduce the constitution. Then the persecutions of liberals. Obviously senseless and heroic deeds of terrorists caused by not less senseless and criminal unwillingness of the czar to understand the problems of the country, which he ruled. As a consequence, the apocryphal Lenin’s statement ‘We shall follow another way’, and this notorious way, which our fathers and we followed. The disability to listen to each other never leads to solving any problems. I am not a supporter of individual terror, I am rather supporter of Alexander II. Terror is the meanest and the most horrible phenomena in the world.

Dropping bombs and launching rockets will never replace the intelligible dialog between civilizations. In my opinion, the UNO, as it functions now, cannot fulfil the tasks, for which it was created. A dialog between different cultures must be carried out in the UNO framework. As to the application of force, it can be of use only if most peaceful citizens of different cultures understand that the force is applied justly.

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