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Relations between the Islam and the West – „Two Worlds?”

Hajnalka Vincze

When we examine the relationship between civilizations, one should first of all make a clear distinction between State actors, which do have the right and the capacity for political action, and cultural spheres of variable scale and cohesion, which do not. As the excellent American analyst, William Pfaff observed: "None of these civilizations, rather arbitrarily defined, is or ever was, as such, a political actor or a political entity. Nations act. Governments wage wars. But civilizations are not political units and there is no hint that they will ever become one". This does not mean, far from it, as one will see it hereafter, an underestimation of cultural and identity-related factors.

It is only acknowledging the fact that the possibility and the responsibility to shape events are to be found at the level of the political entities, namely the States. With regard to the relation Islam-Occident, we will therefore focus our attention on the potentialities and the limits of political action. Starting by separating the internal (within the same political entity) and external (between political entities) dimensions, which obey to completely different sets of rules. Outside, the logic of international relations reigns, and it is on this basis that one must find a balance between the promotion of changes considered to be desirable in the long run and the preservation, in all circumstances, of stability. The internal dimension of the countries, which are like as many bricks of the international system, is defined, on the other hand, by the particular laws of the sovereign State: here, the most important parameter is to ensure the indivisibility of the constitutional order, the cohesion of the society, and the margin of manoeuvre for political decision and action. The international and domestic levels are, of course, related to one another by a profound and permanent interaction. On the one side, for lack of appropriate policies in the international dimension, the State entity can found itself under immense external pressure (massive migration, military and environmental threats etc). On the other side, this entity will only be able to weigh in the external processes if it preserves all its credibility, i.e. its triple, constitutional, social and political, integrity. (...) Preliminary summary Instead of generalizing classifications such as "Islam" and "Occident" or of simplifying scenarios on "the end of the history" and "the clash of civilizations", the relevant framework for interpretation is at the same time more complex and more realistic. Seen under this angle, fashionable slogans are incongruous: the course of events continues to be determined by “old" mobiles and stakes, namely the political, economic, identity-preserving and societal ones. And the solution, obviously, can only come from the side of politics – by taking into account the requirement of sovereignty, international power relations and socio-economic factors. Internally, this implies a radical rupture with the present attitude of capitulation and paralysis dissimulated behind the "multiculturalist" catchword, and the immediate recognition of the triad "family policy, regulation of immigration, social integration" as utmost priorities. As regards our relations with the Arab-Muslim world, our first step should be to ensure for ourselves an independent and credible negotiating position, in order to be able to express our interests and our convictions. It is only on this basis that we could begin to seek the most suitable formulas to satisfy our double ambition which is the parallel pursuit of a process of democratization and of the safeguarding of international stability. With regard to the civilisational aspects of the relationship between "Islam" and "the Occident", it would be essential to counter and contain the de-structuring effects of the globalization-Americanization phenomenon. Given that the rehabilitation and the reinforcement of the political capability to decide and act, along with the respect of identities and State sovereignties are the indispensable condition of any dialogue worthy of this name.

Full text in Hungarian.

(In: Globális biztonsági kihívások, NATO szerepvállalások és Közép-Európa, ed. Glied Viktor - Tarrósy István, Pécs, 2006.)


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