Clash of Civilizations Or Dialogue of Cultures


The world is passing through a transitional period marked by conflict between international parties, big and small. The conflicts and crises are taking on various religious, ethnic, tribal and regional forms, at a time of growing economic crisis, nuclear threats, environmental dangers and irrational use of scientific and technological progress. All the world challenges are approached according to different and contradictory cultures, experiences and interests.

The collapse of the socialist camp and the end of bipolarity led one pole to attempt to impose its hegemony on the world by all means and ways, at a time of world imbalance and relentless endeavors by big states to resolve their crises at the expense of smaller countries.

The Third World in general, and Arab countries in particular, are hardest hit by the negative impact of those policies in the forms of siege, isolation, racism, intervention and economic, political and cultural hegemony.

The world is fast moving towards the 21st century. Intellectuals and thinkers are concerned with their countries' worries and their own future. The technological, scientific and information revolution provides those who possess those means with immense capabilities. The gap between the haves and the have nots is widening at an unbelievable rate.

The whole world is preoccupied with a debate on civilizations and cultures, with their overt and covert objectives and revolves round a dialogue or a clash between them.

The Afro Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization believes in the need for a dialogue between cultures, regardless of their religious or philosophical orientations, in order to reach minimal common agreement among cultures or values, on intellectual and scientific matters, to ensure human dignity, values, freedom and specificity and to guarantee be it a minimal degree of international legitimacy, human rights and, respect for differences, in order to safeguard the coming generations' right to life, security and progress.

For that reason, AAPSO convened a conference of an international nature with an Arab and a South specificity, to allow for a scientific analysis and a political vision of "the clash of civilizations or the conflict of cultures." The aim was to conduct a constructive dialogue between thinkers and intellectuals from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the West, along with figures concerned with these vital issues in the North. The dialogue was designed to crystallize a practical vision of a world order, with mechanisms upholding dialogue, allowing for dispute and conflict resolution and for turning them into a positive competition that creates a better environment and promotes common interests.

The AAPSO's attitude coincided with the celebration of Cairo as the 1996 cultural capital and with preparations for AAPSO's fortieth anniversary (1958-1998).

AAPSO Permanent Secretariat also invited leading Egyptian thinkers and intellectuals for consultation and for preparations for the conference. The Preparatory Committee comprised:
- Dr. Morad Ghaleb, AAPSO President
- Mr. Nouri Abdel Razzak, AAPSO Secretary General
- Mr. Kamal Bahaa EI Din, AAPSO Assistant to the President
- Dr. Ibrahim Saadeldin, Third World Forum (Egypt)
- Mr. EI Sayed Yassin, Advisor, AI Ahram Political and Strategic Studies Centre.
- Dr. Anwar Mogheith, Philosophy teacher, Faculty of Arts, Helwan University.
- Dr. Hassan Hassan Hanafy Philosophy Professor, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University.
- Dr. Samir Amin, Director Third World Forum (Dakkar)
- Ambassador Omran EI Shafee', former assistant to the Foreign Minister
- Mr. Maher Khalifa, Research and Programmes Director, Middle East Studies Centre.
- Mr. Mohamed Sid Ahmed, Writer and Politician
- Mr. Mahmoud Amin EI Alem, Thinker and Writer

It was decided to appoint:
- Dr. Morad Ghaleb: Conference Chairman
- Mr. Nouri Abdel Razzak: Conference Secretary General
- Dr. Shohrat EI Alem: Conference General Coordinator

It was decided to assign the task of preparing information to:
- Dr. Fakhry Labib
- Mrs. Hala EI Assmar

The Preparatory Committee held extensive discussions and prepared a working paper for the conference encompassing four major themes, namely:
Theme (1) : The dialogue of civilizations at the threshold of the 21st century.
Theme (2): Western hegemony and cultural specificities.
Theme (3): The Arab and Islamic world and the Third World people in the face of western hegemony.
Theme (4): Towards a new !liberal human order

It was decided to devote three sessions to every theme for the presentation of papers, discussions and interventions. A rapporteur was appointed for every theme as follows:
- Dr. Magdi Abdel Hafez", theme (1)
- Dr. Anouar Mogheith, Theme (2)
- Dr. Ahmed Barqawi, Theme (3)
- Dr. Maher EI Sherif, Theme (4)

As for what may be issued at the end of the conference, it was agreed, as explained by Mr. Nouri Abdel Razzak in his address, that the Preparatory Committee had recommended issuing a descriptive statement of what had taken place at the Conference. For that purpose, the committee proposed setting up a drafting committee comprising the four rapporteurs: Dr. Magdi Abdel Hafez, Dr. Anouar Mogheith, Dr. Ahmed Barqawi and Dr. Maher Sherif, as well as Hein Marais (South Africa), Prof. Jomo K. Sundaram (Malaysia), Dr. George Labica (France), Dr. Jan Hjarpe (Sweden), Dr. Gamil Mattar (Egypt) and Dr. Fakhry Labib, (AAPSO Information Office). Secretary-General Nouri Abdel Razzak was chosen Rapporteur of the Drafting Committee. The Committee was open for anyone to join.

AAPSO Technical Staff spared no effort in preparation for the conference. The close cooperation with the following helped in the convening and success of the conference: The Egyptian Foreign Ministry, The Ministry of Culture, The Ministry of Tourism, Tourism and the Environment Fund, the Ministry of Information, AI Ahram, The. Development Department (The Netherlands), Soad EI Sabbah Foundation, the Human Affairs Division (Denmark) and Egypt Air.

The Conference was held from 10-12 March 1997 in Cairo, capital of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and was inaugurated by AAPSO President and conference chairman Dr. Morad Ghaleb.

Attending the conference were about three hundred leading thinkers, historians, economists, philosophers, sociologists, men of letters and representatives of local, regional international governmental and non-governmental organizations from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Arab Countries and European states.

About 80 research papers were presented to the Conference.

The papers and the interventions were profound, varied and covered a wide spectrum of issues. The differences or contradictions enriched the discussion and contributed to a positive dialogue designed to reach a common vision and common interests.

The conference was well covered by radio, television and the press at the Egyptian, Arab and international levels.

It culminated in a descriptive final report on the discussion with all the viewpoints. It concluded by saying "Our present meeting is a historical event and should not end with its adjournment. The dialogue we started should continue. The issues at stake are neither simple nor easy, They cannot end today. We have to pursue the rich political and cultural dialogue we have started in order to present our people with a prospective vision and, later, a future plan."

The fog is thick and hopes are pinned on you to dispel the dark, for a better future for our peoples and nations.

Dr. Morad Ghaleb
President of AAPSO
Introductory Speech

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Guests,
Dear Friends,

Allow me first of all to express my thanks to you for accepting AAPSO's invitation to participate in this international conference on the clash of civilizations and the dialogue of cultures. I wish you all pleasant deliberations and an exchange of opinions among a group of scientists and researchers of world repute, who have come from the Americas, from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and from our own Arab World to share this meeting with our Egyptian scientists, professors and intellectuals. To you all my heartfelt thanks and gratitude.

I also address my thanks to the preparatory committee who carried the main load in preparing for the meeting, in selecting the themes and ensuring a representation of all trends, opinions and orientations.

Some Egyptian, Arab and international bodies have extended generous assistance in cash and in kind; without their help our organization would not have been able to convene this conference at this international level and with the participation of this gathering of distinguished people from all continents.

Dear Friends,

As we all know, humanity is going through a qualitatively new stage of its history, that of the scientific and technological revolution. Our generation witnessed a previous revolution, the industrial revolution, that shaped its new world order based on capitalism, on the accumulation of capital, on colonialism and on Marxism as a reaction to capitalism. Today the scientific and technical revolution is shaping its own world order, moving rapidly towards its final main features.

Thanks to its astonishing successes in the field of informatics and communication, this revolution has begun to globalize the world, to reduce time and space and to enable the stronger to use their advantages in an unprecedented manner. Never in the history of mankind has world capital had so much power and control, nor such tremendous freedom to move like lightning, unhindered by national borders, regional groupings, continents, seas, oceans or governments. World capital carries out all its transactions via computers, overcoming all obstacles. And why not? Approximately 500 transnational and transcontinental companies control 80% of world production and 75% of its trade. Those companies have become the real power controlling the world, mobilizing the seven large economic powers and their governments at their service.

Never in history has there been such a tremendous concentration of wealth and capital. Suffice it to say that 20% of the world population. are controlling 80% of industrial and natural resources. The fortunes of 358 billionaires constitute 45% of the fortunes of 45% of the world population put together. 80% of the world's industrial production belongs to the rich states who control 84% of the volume of commercial activities in the world, and 74% of the sources of energy.
We in the Third World are being rapidly and increasingly marginalized. Our national identity is threatened with extinction because it is subjected to a ruthless attack that admits no national borders, an attack directed against our culture, our way of thinking and our style of life. We are being told what to eat, Hamburgers and McDonalds, what to wear, how to think and where to seek information. We are ordered to undertake economic restructuring, to turn to capitalism and privatization so as to become part of the world market and so that our mode of production may conform to I.S.O. standards, regardless of whether this transformation is beneficial or detrimental to us.

Such policies led to an acute polarization of wealth and of poverty. The middle class began rapidly to join the ranks of the masses, sharing their sufferings. Our own societies are shaken by violent reactions to these policies, touching the very fibres of society. Some have totally rejected those pol1cies and sought refuge in fundamentalism. Others embraced terrorism and the killing of innocents as a means of change and resistance. Others yet surrendered to those policies hoping to gain from them. Many intellectuals believe globalization to be a reality, that we must find the right equation to deal with it while avoiding its negative aspects and safeguarding our identity and culture. What we need now are three simultaneous revolutions: a revolution in our thinking and culture. a social revolution and a scientific and technological revolution.

Dear friends,

The societies of developed states, who control the scientific and technological revolution, also have their sufferings, but this is not the place for analyzing them. Let me. however, mention unemployment which has reached 22% in Spain and 12% in Germany, the engine of European development. These societies also suffer from a tremendous concentration of wealth and fabulous incomes for the upper echelons of management as a result of mergers of giant companies in search of more profit. This is done at the expense of hundreds of workers and middle management who are being licensed. Job insecurity and anxiety in the family and in society have become common phenomena, not to mention crime, drugs, neo-Nazism, fundamentalism, extremist doctrines etc…

Side by side with those changes came the collapse (}f the Soviet Union and of its allied socialist states. Bi polarity which had ruled the world since the end of World War II also collapsed, leaving an ideological, political, economic and social vacuum and various attempts at filling it. We all read Fukoyama and 'the end of history' with the final victory of new liberalism; it did not last long however, and was soon forgotten.

Another attempt was Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations", and that is what our meeting will be dealing with.

Let me say that the main purpose of our meeting here is not to discuss Huntington's theory, but rather to go beyond that into discussing our view of the basic issues we shall be dealing with in the 21st century .

Dear Friends,

This introduction, admittedly long, was necessary so as to allow me to approach the theory of clash of civilizations more comprehensively and more objectively. I shall begin by questioning its concept, its objectives, its purposes and its justifications.

* Why the word clash and why clash of civilizations in particular? Was it intended to influence public opinion and convince it of the possibilities of confrontations and conflicts that would encompass the entire planet, hence the need for a permanent American military presence with its bases in all four corners of the world?

* Is the purpose to create an enemy image so that the terrible war machine may continue to be developed, to spread all over the universe and to be maintained ever ready for use?

* Is all this connected with the continuation and escalation of the influence of the military industrial complex with its profits? Is it a justification for raising the budget for armament and for developing weapons?

* Why did Huntington consider Russia to be a culture separate from the Slavonic group? Is the purpose to contain Russia and expand Nato to encompass the old socialist states of central Europe, while isolating Russia, since Russia may represent a danger if it were to recover its role?
* What does expanding Nato mean to these states? It means exchanging Soviet equipment and armament for Western weapons so that it may be concomitant with Nato. Such a change is estimated to cost 150 billion dollars. We all know where those billions will go .

* Why was Japan considered a separate civilizational unit? Is it because of its economic power or because trade conflicts can be settled by bargaining and compromises?

* Why was Islam a target for enmity and hatred? Is it because the world of Islam is so vast and rich, and because Muslims are now a continuous and growing presence in all continents, even inside the U.S.A. Is it because Islam is an overall religious and secular structure, capable of resisting globalization and cultural and civilizational invasion?

* As for the Budhist, Confucian and Hindu civilizations, their share of attack was less than that of Islam and Muslims.

* I do not know why they seem to have forgotten that the two world wars that claimed tens of millions of lives broke out within one single civilization, the Western civilization.

* What does Mr. Huntington think of American society itself and the fact that it contains different racial groups such as Afro-Americans, Hispanics, Mexicans and others. Does the theory of clash of civilizations apply to them as well?

* Huntington modified his theory to include Spanish and Portuguese Latin America as part of Western civilization. Was it out of conviction, or was it for reasons related to American politics?

* What does Mr. Huntington think of the barbaric clash or conflict raging in the region of the Middle Lakes in Central Africa, is it a clash of civilizations?

* What does he think of the violent conflicts in West and East Africa, in Angola and the Sudan?

* Finally, Huntington seems to agree with Fukoyama that new liberalism and Western civilization will rule the world and will use globalization to its own benefit.

Dear Friends,

It would appear from all the above that Huntington's theory and his opinions are not an objective analysis of how conflicts will be like in the 21st century. He has neglected the most likely development of the world order, from one where the USA is almost in sole control, to an order where there are many centers of power within one civilization. Huntington's theory is nothing but a theorizing of American hegemony, a justification of American military presence and, in the final analysis, it feeds the military, industrial complex, increasing its influence and profits. Moreover, it does not solve the essence of the problem from which the world in general and the Third World in particular are suffering as a result of the monopoly of the scientific and technological revolution and of its achievements, and as a result of using globalization the better to dominate the overwhelming majority of humanity.

What then are we aiming for with this meeting? What do we wish for humanity in the 21st century?

* We want a dialogue of cultures so as to establish a humane world order ruled by democracy and social justice for all.
* We want the scientific and cultural revolution to be a revolution in favour of human welfare and in support of humanity's freedom and choices. We want its fruits and achievements to be enjoyed by all humanity.

* We want a democratic globalization and not a monopolistic, hegemonistic and exploiting globalization.

* We want a globalization to feed 800 million hungry people in the world, one third of whom live in Africa, and one billion and 300 million living in dire poverty.

* We want it for 500 million human beings who have no access to medical treatment to be able to stay alive.

* We want it in order to help the peoples of the Third World share in the development of the scientific and technological revolution, to stop their marginalization and to improve their performance.

* We want the U.N to be more democratic, more representative of the peoples of the world. We do not want it to be a tool for the hegemony of one state over the other. We want it to abandon selectivity and double standards in adopting decisions.

Dear brothers,
There is a great difference between wishes and realities. We the peoples of the Third World bear the main responsibility for a new more democratic and more humane world order which cannot be achieved unless we change ourselves first: culturally, politically and economically. This necessitates an overall revolution in all fields of life, to rid our societies of all obstacles to progress and development, to give free reign to freedom of thought so that man may create, shine and produce.

We believe in cultural dialogue and in cooperation with the developed states. We are not partisans of conflict and confrontation, we are seekers of peace and justice and we want to live in a world that is more secure and less armed, a world where there are no nuclear weapons nor weapons of mass destruction, a world where each and every people obtain their legitimate rights within the fold of international institutions that foster peace, disarmament and welfare for all.

Finally, thank you for your attention and my best wishes for a successful, constructive and enjoyable dialogue.