In his keynote address, Professor Ali Mazrui (1) examined the question of the international media coverage following 11 September (2) particularly the controversial supposition that the world was experiencing a clash between the civilizations of the Islamic and the Western worlds, as articulated by Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington in his book The Clash of Civilizations. (3) More directly, Professor Mazrui's discussion focused on the role of the media in propagating a "clash definition" of 11 September.
Mazrui argued that the mistake made by Huntington was not conceptual, such as in the meaning of civilization, or factual, principally Huntington's conclusion that the role of the state in international affairs would decline. Rather, Mazrui argued that the central error Huntington made was temporal, namely the assumption that a clash of civilizations was part of the future, rather than inseparable from the past and the present of the human condition. That there have been clashes between the West and other societies and cultures for at least four hundred years is a matter of historical record. Professor Mazrui delineated four periods of these past conflicts, which he designated as: genocidal, enslaving, imperial, and hegemonic. Within each period he also identified the role of mass communication, or the media, in the support and rationalization of the synchronous enterprise of Western civilizational expansion.
In the genocidal period, which saw European migration and settlement in the Americas, Western civilization clashed with the civilizations of the Incas and Mayas as well as the native North American populations, effectively destroying them. At that time mass communication was controlled by the church, distances were great and the time-span of travel immense, resulting in little criticism of the genocidal consequences of the clash in the Americas. Professor Mazrui stressed that during the enslaving period, millions of Africans were exported to North, South and Central America, and to the Caribbean. Mass communications, principally in the form of the print media, were not relevant during the period when the expansion of the slave trade was undertaken, but became important during the abolitionist movement. During the imperial period, Western states colonized or semi-colonized more than three quarters of the globe. Westerners settled in diverse parts of the world, governed in others, and controlled indigenous societies wherever they could. In this period mass communications played an increasingly important role. (4) Growing technological capabilities allowed for rapid transmission from European capitals to the administrators of an expanding global domain, and for the transportation of military resources to enforce European control. The final period described by Professor Mazrui was that of hegemonic globalization. Within this period he identified three distinct thrusts advancing Western dominance: economic globalization, information globalization including the internet, computers, and miniaturized telecommunications, and, comprehensive globalization which he described as the "villagization" of the world.
The role of the mass media in this period is of penultimate importance to the enterprise of hegemonic globalization. Professor Mazrui examined the handmaiden role played by the media in hegemonic globalization in terms of three types of "sins" committed in reporting news--"sins" of commission, omission, and submission. Commission occurs through the distortion of stories, such as the "success" of smart weapons during the Gulf War, through selectively reporting information so as to sanitize events and to underplay their devastation--for example, the Pentagon's sanitized terminology of collateral damage, or to headline selectively--for example, the North American media's propensity to publish headlines decrying the deaths of Israelis, but never publishing a headline which reports "Hundreds of Palestinians feared killed by Israelis."
"Sins" of omission are evidenced by selective media coverage of comparative examples, such as when examining the Taliban's despotic treatment of Afghani women or the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. These examples, while accurate, were not balanced by positive images of powerful Islamic women, including the head of governments in states such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey. "Sins" of submission entail submission to political pressure--that is, the heeding of warnings by political leaders and acquiescence to the demands of advertisers in newspapers and television. This "sin", in effect, represents an effective method of censorship, an example of which is the self-censorship imposed by PBS (Public Broadcasting System) in the United States when it deleted the metaphor used by Mazrui to describe Karl Marx as "the last of the great Jewish prophets" in his celebrated PBS series entitled The Africans: A Triple Heritage. Another example was made visible by 11 September events when the Bush White House summoned CNN, and other network producers, to warn them not to replay the Al-Qaeda and bin Laden videos from the Arab television network Al-Jazeera. Following the establishment of the historical and contemporary role of the media in legitimating Huntington's thesis of the clash of civilizations paradigm of Western imperialism and American foreign policy, Professor Mazrui then focused his analysis on the media's portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict to demonstrate the "sins" of commission, omission and submission played by the media to promote public sympathy for Israel and public antipathy for the Palestinians.
In response to the issues raised by Professor Mazrui, a selection of papers from the conference has been gathered to probe more deeply into specific relevant topics. Revised and updated from their presentation at the conference, they reflect the vibrant exchanges and discussion experienced by the participants. This volume is divided into two parts. "Myths: Framing the Problem," examining the portentous debate surrounding the dominant argument, that civilizational conflict is the best choice of discursive tool to generate discussion, identification and towards an understanding of the current state of international affairs. The popular adoption in the mainsUeem media of notions advanced by Francis Fukuyama, (5) Samuel Huntington, (6) and Benjamin Barber, (7) are examined, and their conclusions and inferences critiqued. The second part, "Realities: Policy and Practice," examines the post-11 September discourse in various societies in the international community.
In the first article, "Terrorism: From Sampson to Atta," Shadia Drury examines the contemporary conflict between Islam and the West. She finds that it is a particularly fierce conflict, not because of the differences between the antagonists, but because of their similarities. At the heart of the conflict, Drury argues, is a dualistic Biblical morality that she proceeds to examine critically. She argues that the violent clash of civilizations between the western tradition, as advanced by the United States, and the Islamic tradition, as advanced by Islamic revivalists, has its source in the fact that the two civilizations are inspired by the same Biblical God. Through an examination of Biblical dualism, found within the discourses of the U.S.-based Christian Coalition, the U.S. political establishment and revivalist Islamic Fundamentalism, such as that of Osama bin Laden, Drury finds that both are committed to the Biblical inclination to think of individuals in terms of their national and racial identities. In doing so, Drury explains that there is no conceptual recognition of the innocence of individuals, but rather the collective societal guilt for the crimes of a minority. Thus, the clash is between two equally arrogant and self-righteous civilizations confronting one another. Each is convinced that it is on the side of God, truth and justice, while its enemy is allied with Satan, wickedness, and barbarism.
Drury points out that this conceptual framework has worked to the advantage of neo-conservatives in the United States. The presence of a constant threat is believed to be the best way to unite people behind their government, and has allowed governments to amass powers that a free people would not normally tolerate. Drury argues that the societies of the United States and the Arab world are both envious and contemptuous of one another, resulting in a mutual antagonism. However, Drury sees the political realism and Christian imagery of the Bush administration as ineffectual, and that the adoption of Biblical imagery to depict Islam will fail to succeed in the court of global opinion as long as the U.S. continues to play the bully in international affairs.
In the second article, "11 September and the Millennial Discourse: An Order of Worlds?" Fuad Shaban examines the clash of cultures that has been experienced for centuries between the West and the Arab World. Shaban identifies this conflict as fuelled by the Jeremiad prophetic paradigm which has been a prominent factor in Western culture, and has influenced Western, particularly American, habits of language and thinking. This millennial set of beliefs, which results from literal interpretations of prophetic sacred texts, has inevitably helped shape American policies towards the Arab World. By laying claim to the Holy Land, and identifying prophecy with current political realities, many Americans have unconditionally supported Israeli policies and actions, regardless of the errors involved, because they believe that the present state of Israel is the fulfilment of prophecy.
In the third article, "Screening Islam: Terrorism, American Jihad, and the New Islamists," Raymond William Baker analyzes representations of Islam in the dominant Western media. He postulates that the media is the privileged space of politics in the emerging network society of the Information Age. His analysis focuses on the new rules and principles of media screening in network culture. Relying on interpretive strategies drawn from information and complexity theory, the argument is made that projections of Islam as violent conceal the power of identity that centrist Islam affords. The article explains how, despite intentional manipulations of representations of Islam, the unavoidable and therefore duplicitous of screening creates opportunities. The conclusion assesses the ways these inevitable, but still unpredictable media openings can be exploited to advance an emancipatory politics.
In the fourth article, "11 September and the Widening North-South Gap: Root Causes of Terrorism in the Global Order," Ibrahim Elnur contends that, as was the case of the Suez Canal War of 1956, 11 September may signal a turning point in the global order. The events following 11 September, including the conflict in Afghanistan and attempts to reinforce nation state control, and regulatory policies the world over, appears to represent a consolidation of unipolarity. Elnur asserts that this may, in essence, be symptomatic of the approaches to crisis management adopted by the states involved, although the new alternative global order is evidently not yet born. Elnur's article suggests that the dynamics conlributing to the North-South gap involve increasing differentiation and marginalization, and that the specificity of Islamic responses to such dynamics is not irrelevant. Addressing the root causes responsible for such dynamics, argues Elnur, cannot be undertaken without an effective and holistic approach to peace, without its essential centrality being seen as the most crucially important public good.
In the fifth article, "The 'Clash' Thesis: War and Ethnic Boundaries in Europe," Philip Marfleet examines European perceptions of the discourse of civilizational conflict. Marfleet argues that the theory of global cultural conflict has found a ready audience in Europe, and that it has been mobilized by those who wish to close the European Union to immigrants, notably refugees viewed as a malign cultural influence. Marfleet identifies enthusiasts for the thesis as being EU ideologues and politicians of the extreme Right. His article underlines some of the central flaws in the "clash" thesis, notably its failure to comprehend the character of the nation-state, and of supra-national structures which rest upon the construction of aliens and "Others."
In the sixth article, "Clash of Civilizations: Prophecy or Contradiction in Terms?," Christopher Vasillopulos declares that the concept of the Clash of Civilizations is devoid of analytical content and that it can function only as a rhetorical or ideological device. As such, argues Vasillopulos, it contains the possibility of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The "clash concept" presumes an inherent and ineradicable conflict between the Islamic East and the secular West, between traditionalism made extreme by religions fanaticism and modernity made moderate by prudence and practicality. Further, adherents to Christian fundamentalism contend it presumes that the historical forces that shaped the West, especially its separation from Medieval Christendom, will not have similar effects in Islamic countries. Vasillopulos's article calls these assumptions into question and makes the claim that civilizations cannot annihilate, or seek to annihilate another culture and remain civilized. It calls upon scholars, who in many respects are the fruit of civil society, to fulfil their roles by critically examining political concepts that pretend to be academic but can only fulfil demagogic functions.
In the seventh article, "Racism and the North American Media After 11 September: The Canadian Setting," the authors examine the media's importance as an institution representing democratic values and dissenting views within Canada. Arguing that the media's role within a multicultural society is most important when democratic states are challenged, the article examines the Canadian media's portrayal of the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, and the subsequent coverage of the U.S. government's response, the "war on terrorism," and depictions of Muslims and Arabs in Canada and the Middle East. The absence of any critical examination of the implications of and reaction to previous U.S. foreign policy positions, as well as its responses to the attacks, resulted in a bland uniformity of coverage. Canadian media is found to exhibit orientalist tendencies, a strong reductive practice, identified as "theologocentrism," and is associated with racist notions in its depiction of Arabs and Muslims. The enormous volume of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, and anti-dissent materials and opinions contained within the mainstream media militated against long-standing Canadian commitments to democracy, multiculturalism, tolerance of dissent, and multi-national efforts for the maintenance of peace and security that were apparently abandoned in the emotive mass media response to 11 September.
In the eighth article, "Anti-Terrorism and Rights: Policy Discourse on Finding a Canadian Balance," Patrick Smith examines the growth and increasing politicization of the Canadian security intelligence service and its role in the adoption of security legislation following 11 September. In examining Canadian contributions to the world of security intelligence and its governance Smith examines a framework under which security organizations can balance their need to be transparent within democracies and proposes clear mechanisms for accountability. He first traces the debates surrounding "rights vs. security" which took place in Canada during the early 1980's when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was created and then examines this same debate as it surrounded anti-terrorism and public order/safety in a post-11 September Canada. Due to internal dissent and extensive external criticism, Bill C-42, intended to deal with the "emergency" situation perceived after the events of September 2001 was allowed to languish in Parliamentary limbo. On 24 April 2002, it was formally withdrawn. However, within a week a replacement bill, Bill C-55 the Public Safety Act, was put before Parliament by the Government. Smith quotes one media columnist who noted that "Bill C-42 replacement is less offensive than the original," but C-42 was mostly "yanked due to concerns about its capacity to withstand a legal challenge." This led Smith to question whether there was any alteration in the Canadian government's obligation to protect Canadians from a terrorist attack, or whether its motivation was to contain dissent and mute opposition to its hosting of the G8 summit in June 2002. Smith's conclusion was that despite similarities in the 1980s and 2001-2002 debates, the government of Canada used the focus on anti-tcn'orism to tip the balance from rights to security.
The ninth article, "11 September and the Clash of Civilizations: Role of the Japanese Media and Public Discourse," by Keiko Sakai examines Japanese reaction to both the 11 September attacks, and the U.S. governments response. She argues that it was "the war against terrorism," rather than the attacks on 11 September, that created controversy among Japanese public opinion leaders. Principal concerns centred on Japan's role in the global community, and its participation within a U.S.-led response to the attacks. Sakai maintains that Japan understood that the U.S.-led operation would request Japanese military participation, necessitating a fundamental transformation in Japanese defence policy. Moving away from its traditional post-World War II pacifism, Japan would be required to project resources and military force outside its territorial boundaries for the first rune since the end of the Second World War. Simultaneously, Sakai argued, Japan's role as a military power, evoked antagonism against any use of Japanese armed forces. Japan's pacifistic postwar mind-set saw both hawks and doves mobilize Japanese media to recall memories of previous wars (i.e., WWII and the Gulf War), to either support or oppose the new policy for its national defence.
In the tenth article, "The Framing of 11 September in the Turkish Media: Moder(n)ating Turkey's Oriental Identity," Tugrul liter focuses on the representational practices of the Turkish media concerning post-11 September elaborations of the "other," that have enabled, and continues to feed the ongoing U.S. interventions around the world. In considering the implications of the "new world order," that pressured U.S. allies and adversaries alike to toe the line, as well as the equation of "terrorist" with "Islamic," liter argues that Turkey's Islamic identity made its loyalty to the new world order of paramount importance, liter describes Turkey's long-standing modernization project, on the one hand, as orientalist in its identity. In the dominant discourse of Western civilization, a society would have to be identified as oriental in order to embark on modernization. On the other hand, Ilter asserts that Turkey moderates its identity as "other" through its identification with, and obedience to, the Western orientations. However, he contends that this interplay of otherness and sameness is not unique to Turkey.
In the eleventh article, "The Underlying Realities of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict After 11 September," Norton Mezvinsky outlines the effect of 11 September on the Palestinian intifada and its Israeli response. Mezvinsky postulates that the events of 11 September bad, at best, a minimal effect upon the underlying realities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He observes that following the outbreak of the intifada on 28 September 2000, the violence on both sides of the conflict has steadily escalated. Mezvinsky outlines how Israeli military incursions into the West Bank and Gaza, and the continued occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory, has increased the level of oppression Palestinians endure, while also intensifying the conflict. Mezvinsky finds that the Zionist character of the state of Israel, and its increasingly bellicose ethnonationalism, remain at the heart of the conflict.
(1.) Professor Mazrui is Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies and Albert Sehweitzer Professor in the Humanities at Binghamton University, State University of New York at Binghamton, New York, and Albert Luthuli Professor-at--Large, University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria, as well as Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large Emeritus and Senior Scholar in Africana Studies at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and Chair of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington, D.C.
(2.) Ali A. Mazrui, "The Truth Between Terror and Tyranny: The United States, Israel and Hegemonic Globalization," unpublished paper delivered as the Keynote Address at the Fifth International Conference of the International Center for Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies, Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus, on the theme "September 11 and the Clash of Civilizations: Role of the Media and Public Discourse," 25-27 April 2002.
(3.) Samuel P. Huntington. The Clash of Civilization & the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster Trade, 1996); the original article citation is Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993.
(4.) The role of media in reinforcing European colonization, both as justification within European society and as discursive tool to reinforce dominance over subjected colonial subjects was best examined and articulated by Edward Said in his groundbreaking work Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1979).
(5.) Francis Fukuyama. The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Morrow, William & Co., 1993).
(6.) Samuel P. Huntington. The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order; and the original article, Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993.
(7.) Benjamin R. Barber. Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Re-Shaping the World (New York: Ballantine Books, 1996).
Tareq Y. Ismael is Professor of Political Science and Jacqueline S. Ismael is Professor of Social Work, both at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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|Author:||Ismael, Jacqueline S.|
|Publication:||Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2003|
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