The World Youth Forum is taking place in Sharm El Sheikh – File Photo The World Youth Forum is taking place in Sharm El Sheikh – File Photo

WYF panel speakers debate Clash of Civilizations theory

Mon, Nov. 6, 2017
CAIRO – 6 November 2017: Panel speakers debated in the first session of the World Youth Forum (WYF) the validity of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations theory.

They suggested that people's cultural and religious identities are the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.

The session titled “Civilizational and Cultural Differences” took place on Monday in Sharm El-Sheikh and was attended by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

Founder of Arab Youth Forum Prince Al-Hassan bin Talal said that cultures may clash but civilized individuals do not resort to violence to impose their views. He asserted that developing countries have paid a hefty price for the “stupidity of humans.” “We are talking about the ‘intra-independence’ concept which is preserving one’s identity while cooperating with others to make the world a better place,” he stated.

“In the 1980s, I worked with many prominent figures on developing a new global human system in order to counter disasters such as nukes. We encountered resistance in many societies to the concept of inclusive citizenship as that would jeopardize the interest of some groups,” bin Talal explained.

The prince stated that 80 percent of the refugees in the world are Muslims displaced because of 42 civil wars their countries have witnessed due to clashes. He highlighted that education in all countries must meet certain international standards, preparing humans worldwide to adapt to global citizenship principles.

He added that the Jordanian population has increased by 84 percent for hosting people of 42 nationalities. “We have to tackle the intellectual hunger to inhibit clashes,” bin Talal said.

The same point was raised by Jean Francois Huchet, vice-chancellor for Research of the National Institute for Oriental Language and Civilization (INALCO), highlighting that people tend to destroy what they do not understand.

Huchet said that no one can ignore the fact that Egypt is the cradle of civilization. “Academic anthropology suggests that civilization has material and cultural aspects. The nation is identified according to its civilization and culture,” he added.

Huchet stated that "civilizations are mutual property of all nations worldwide, and that culture is interconnected with religion and political aspects. Civilizations shall never clash with each other, but we destroy what we do not understand."

Shibley Talhamy, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, described the Clash of Civilizations as a failure. However, he admitted that there might be clashes within the same civilization. “Clash of Civilizations is a dangerous idea at the hand of extremists,” he said giving the example of the United States where people are deeply divided upon ideas, values, and principles. A case in point is the differences in stances towards the travel ban to certain countries suggested by the U.S. administration.

“If we ask youth in the U.S. about Muslims and how they perceive them, they would give different answers. Internet contributes in increasing differences within nation-states as well,” Talhamy said.

Politician Mostafa al-Feky said he was surprised that both contradicting theories of Globalization and Clash of Civilizations originated in the West after the demise of the Soviet Union. “Civilization is the industry of life. Terrorism is the industry of death. There has never been a civilization that was not open to others,” he said.

Feky referred to the speeches of Prince Charles at Oxford University in 1982 and at Al-Azhar University in 2006, where he highlighted the positive influence of the Islamic civilization on the European civilization.

“The Arabic-Islamic civilization opened its arms for others such as Christians and Jews. Egypt has nine synagogues open for prayers and have been subject to respect by Egyptians and were never attacked,” he added.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawas stated that Egypt never perceived other civilizations as enemies which constituted the creed of the Egyptian army. “That is preserving the Egyptian identity and borders. Protecting borders necessitated constructing certain fronts to dismantle any threats. Sinai and the Western Desert never inhibited contact with other civilizations,” he added.

Hawas highlighted that the ancient Egyptian civilization was built on foundations of peace, stressing that talking about clash of civilizations must be based on clear concepts and not on individual readings of particular events. “Without the clash of civilizations in the Fertile Crescent area, we would not witness today the great civilizations existing there,” he added; demonstrating the contrast between these civilizations and the Egyptian civilization.

Hawas said that Egypt had been the power preserving the security of the entire Near East. “Akhenaten attempted to abolish the regional role of Egypt which has prompted requests from Iraqi rulers to help secure their territories from potential attacks,” he added.

Serbian Youth and Sports Minister Vanja Udovičić asserted that terrorist groups may not be able “to do more” but they still exist which should be a challenge that unifies youth worldwide. He also praised the strong diplomatic ties that Egypt, Serbia and former Yugoslavia had despite cultural differences.

Hans Nielson, chairman of Egyptian-Danish Dialogue Center, affirmed that there has been disrespect to differences in multiple areas in the world.

The panel speakers were founder of Arab Youth Forum Prince Al-Hassan bin Talal, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland Shibley Talhamy, Vice-Chancellor for Research of the National Institute for Oriental Language and Civilization (INALCO) Jean Francois Huchet, Egyptologist Zahi Hawas, Serbian Youth and Sports Minister Vanja Udovičić, Chairman of Egyptian-Danish Dialogue Center Hans Nielson, and politician Mostafa al-Feky.
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