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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 16:27 GMT
Clash of cultures or fight for democracy?
The events of September 11th and the subsequent attacks on Afghanistan have brought the relationships between different countries and their governments under intense scrutiny.

Many believe that the clash of cultures explains the underlying cause of the current conflict.

But others see a struggle being played out in the political sphere between democratic and non-democratic forms of governance.

Have politicians and analysts misread this current crisis? And does this explain why there seems to be no clear strategy for dealing with the future of Afghanistan and its people?

A World Today debate on this subject will be broadcast on BBC World Service Radio on Thursday 1st November at 0045 and 0245 GMT. A selection of your e-mails will be read out during the debate and daily on the programme leading up to the debate at 0040 and 0240 GMT.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

There are strong similarities between the struggles and problems in the Muslim world and those of Europe less than a hundred years ago. Ordinary Muslims see the West as being part of their problems because of prior or current support for unpopular rulers. Western governments must learn the lessons of history and promote democracy and freedom around the world.
Jeff Garner, USA

The current confrontation appears to be both due to a 'clash' of cultures and serious misunderstanding and misinterpretation of religious norms and values. Besides, another major factor is the tussle between the 'haves and have-nots' which is by and large responsible both for causing the rifts between cultures and the dominant religions -Christianity and Islam.
Naveed Khan, Pakistan

Islam is traditionally as much a political system as a religion

Peter, Netherlands
Islam is traditionally as much a political system as a religion. Indeed, its very historical origins are as much political as religious. Political pan-Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism (which are not the same thing) cannot be explained by religious considerations alone. Within political Islam, as within any other political movement, one finds conservative and reformist factions. It should also come as no surprise that political Islam finds itself at odds, on fundamental points, with other political systems (such as relativistic liberal democracy) whose basic assumptions are different.
Peter, Netherlands

The culture of a people is something very basic to human beings and can never be wiped out. However, democracy and governance are forms of government and should recognise and respect the cultures for whom these are meant. Many of the world's problems are the result of arbitrariness in "governance" for short-term gains instead of for the long term.
Saravan,M, UK

"Clash of cultures" theory assumes that Muslim citizens are free. In most Muslim countries the majority voice is squelched by non-democratic extremist regimes.
J Khan, USA

This is not a struggle between democratic and non-democratic forces

Mani, USA
This is not a struggle between democratic and non-democratic forces. There is always a simmering anger against the Western countries, because of the atrocities they committed when they colonized the world. Though USA has not colonized the world, it dominates the world and in the process does hurt many regions of the world. Even Europeans dislike the forceful leadership of USA.

Repeated US assertion of its self-interests also gives the impression that all non-US-citizens are less important. This anger is impossible to cure unless USA softens, which will cause it to lose its world dominance. Since USA cannot afford to soften, this anger will always be hijacked by any dominant force that is against USA. Formerly it was the Soviet Union. Now it is China. The latest and the most dangerous is militant Islam.

The force of poverty that the Communists and Socialists harnessed lost momentum as people realized the impracticality of those systems. Socialism doesn't discourage people from thinking for themselves. On the other hand, the force of a religion, particularly a rigid religion like Islam, will only gather momentum. The reason is most people are too lazy to think.

This situation appears as though it is a clash of civilizations. The only long-term solution is to encourage the liberation of Islam, by forward thinking Muslims. Also a more responsible development of the world by the West will be needed. USA-made potato chips and Coca-Cola should not be thrust on poor countries in the name of opening up markets.
Mani, USA

Listen now
... to both sides of the debate
See also:

11 Oct 01 | South Asia
Mapping Afghanistan's political future
22 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The world's plans for Afghans
24 Oct 01 | TV and Radio reports
Divided loyalties
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