Samuel Huntington's thesis on "The clash of civilisations" of 1993 provoked a plethora of varied responses. A Professor at Harvard University, Huntington wrote in order to voice his predictions and warn the world of an upcoming clash of cultures, most notably between the West and Islam. The recent reaction in the Middle East to America's self-styled 'war on terrorism' provides a timely case study for this debate. While an affinity will often exist between countries with similar cultural characteristics, great differences within 'civilisations' and the existence of national interests make unity unlikely. Certainly, cultural differences alone will not be enough to cause a clash. However, anticipating such an outcome and dividing
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From this perspective, the contrast between Western and Islam cultures can no doubt be used as an argument for the inevitability of a clash between the two cultures. However, Huntington's view is too simplistic in the way that it describes cultural stereotypes. Cultures per se are difficult to define "partly because they are too complex and dynamic." Neither the West nor Islam is monolithic or homogeneous. Rather, each comprises and encompasses a range of perspectives and 'sub-cultures'.
Huntington's thesis is premised on an assumption of a predominantly pluralistic culture and attitude to religion in the West, directly opposed by one xenophobic fundamentalist position which underpins the Islam religion and by implication, all Muslim states. This is not accurate, however, as Islam manifests itself in many different ways. The West accommodates a range of religious expression and faiths, promotes free choice of religion, and relies more on the 'individual' in the political spectrum. Conversely, Islamic states are seen as mono-religious, do not promote free choice, and believe that sovereignty lies with the deity (Allah) rather than with the people. From Huntington's perspective, the West (epitomised by USA) is presented as superior, and the 'civilisation' of the West and its state-society relations are depicted as the antithesis of those in fundamentalist Islamic states. This simplistic dichotomy is