Letter: Clash of ideas 1

November 23, 2001

Thomas Meyer says the idea of a clash of civilisations - Islam and the West - plays into the hands of rightwing fundamentalists and segregationism ("A fundamental fallacy", THES , November 9). But ideas cannot be blamed for their followers.

Good reasoning requires linking the similar and distinguishing the different. But Meyer's optimism does neither.

There is a clash of several cultures that cuts across Islam and the West. There is secularism's liberal progressive ethics/politics vs religion's war on mind and body. There is the Enlightenment's atomism (Descartes, Hume), religious and atheist vs religious and secular holism and absolutism (Augustine, Hegel, Stalin and fascism). There is red-green ecologism (parts-whole interdependence) vs capitalism, which comprises atomism and holism.

Islam (meaning submission to God) is holist and Christianity tries to be, too. Jesus's "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's" is yet to see the split of state and church, education and faith. Look at our rulers.

The less simple our study of ideas or doctrine, the more they can be held responsible for their devotees.

David Rodway
Lecturer in art and philosophy
Kensington and Chelsea College

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