Marked by ‘Je Suis Charlie’ or ‘Je Ne Suis Pas Chalie’ slogans, the dogmatic polarization of the world seems now to be a sort of ‘Global Balkanization’ following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. The recent assassinations of three Muslim students in North Carolina, USA and another two people in Copenhagen, Denmark necessarily augment this very perception. As a matter of fact, this set of circumstances has virtually marginalized, if not made irrelevant altogether, the forceful repudiators of Samuel Huntington’s so-called class of civilizations hypothesis. Earlier, certain post 9/11 developments in the world have steadily been reinforcing this very theory in one way or the other. At present, in the face of utter disharmonious relations subsisting between the two civilizations, there certainly exists a situation somewhat like a ‘conflict of civilizations’. In order to prevent this conflict turning into a full-fledged confrontation, the world community needs to realize the heterogeneous character and varying genesis of these two so-called civilizations in the contemporary world.

Today’s western civilization is necessarily a product of an extensive metamorphosis which the polity has undergone over a certain period of time. The revival of European art and literature, under the influence of the Renaissance in the 14th century, paved the way for modernism in Europe. Likewise, Some 16th to 18th century intellectual and philosophical movements in Europe, namely the Reformation, Rationalism and Enlightenment played a pivotal role in the transformation of social and religious institutions in Europe. This period witnessed a significant paradigm shift in Europe; from Scholasticism to humanism, from Authoritarianism to individualism and from totalitarian autocracy to representative democracy.

All these forces have jointly shaped present day western society which is, now, a flag-bearer of fundamental freedoms, human rights and civil liberties. Consequently, the long-established and oppressive church-state binary in these societies has resulted in secular monism. However, in the absence of any significant limiting anti-thesis in this discourse, this liberalism or individualism seems to have gone to another extreme; liberal fascism. Ironically, in the name of freedom of expression, the ‘free world’ takes pride in extending unqualified moral support to a magazine which proudly described itself as ‘Journal Irresponsable’.

On the other hand, in the absence of any conscious philosophical or intellectual movements in the so-called Islamic world for a long time, the polity has been in a state of intellectual inertia or a sort of evolutionary stagnation. Consequently, certain conservative and reactionary tendencies have deeply penetrated the body-politic. Mostly ruled by military autocrats and hereditary monarchs, these countries hardly have any genuine and vibrant political institutions or traditions. In this religious and socio-political setting, the very concepts of individualism and rationalism are almost non-existent. Therefore, both religion and theology have an important role to play in the entire behavioral articulation of this polity.

The exalted personality of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the pivot of the religious fixation of the majority of Muslims. Their entire theological edifice rests on this very substructure. This centrality and significance of the founder of Islam is the most fundamental aspect of Muslim faith that distinguishes it from all other world religions. Despite their mutual antagonism and schism, all Muslim sects have always been equally sensitive and concerned about the personality of the Prophet. Muslims are also often referred to as the Muhammadans all over the world. Undoubtedly, an ordinary Muslim generally puts the honour and dignity of the Prophet above all things, and is always willing and determined to protect it even at the cost of his own life. He hardly tolerates, or otherwise ignores, any disrespect or disgrace in any manner. In a sense, disparaging the sacred name of the Prophet is tantamount to the sentimental or emotional violence against millions Muslims in the world. In order to understand it, the West cannot ignore this crucial aspect of Muslim culture while promoting and protecting its secular and liberal traditions in the world.

Ethnocentrism is an important sociological thesis which necessarily maintains that there is always an inherent tendency within each ethic and cultural group to believe one’s own culture as normal or superior, and to consider it a standard for judging other cultures and ethnic groups. In fact, some ethnocentric fallacies lie at the core of turbulent east-west relationships. Each civilization has constantly been expecting an unqualified compliance from the other on the very touchstone which is necessarily shrouded by these fallacies. One glaring instance of this fact relates to the women face-covering issue in various countries. Sometimes, an extreme attitude is witnessed on both sides as one compulsarily prescribes women to observe the veil whereas the other strictly prohibits them to do so during their usual appearance in public. Ironically, this practice is quite contrary to both the ideal of Western individualism and the spirit of Islam. The recent polarization of the two civilizations in the world over the issue of Charlie Hebdo is another facet of the same ethnocentric syndrome.

Being an integral component of the four fundamental freedoms, the freedom to practice the religion of one’s choice is, by no means, less significant than the freedom of expression. Like in inter-state relations, the principle of mutual respect is always central here too. Therefore, world peace must not be taken hostage to the hawkish attitudes of a handful of religious extremists and liberal fascists. While worshiping their self-carved idols, they must not ignore altogether the emotions of the hapless mortals of this world. In order to avoid any mutual clash, both civilizations must learn to respect each other’s cultures.