There are essentially two models for the current encounter between Islam and the West. The Clash of Civilizations, the first model is held by a narrow slice of the population in First World countries, and an even smaller slice within the political and academic world. This model holds that we are experiencing a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. A clash of civilizations resulting from the desire of Muslims to create a global civilization based on their religion and culture, by displacing all competing civilizations, primarily (but not limited to) Western Civilization.
The second model is the Assimilationist Model, this model is the most widely held one, not only on the left, but among many on the right as well. The Assimilationist Model holds that the tensions between Muslims and the West, both in the West and in the Muslim world, are the product of the incomplete assimilation of both sides into a global society.
Under the Assimilationist Model, clashes in Europe or terrorism in America result from a failure by their host countries to properly assimilate Muslims within their borders. This "failure to assimilate" results primarily from Western racism, ignorance about Islam, and disrespect for Muslim values, leading to economic and social injustice. This economic and social injustice is then said to marginalize Muslim moderate leaders, who are more prepared to assimilate into their host society, and strengthens Muslim extremists.
On a global scale, violence from the Muslim world is said to be produced by the failure of First World countries to respect and adapt to Muslim culture and religion, as well as the left's old standbys of racism, and economic and social injustice. With the same results as on local level. Muslim extremists are strengthened, Muslim moderates are weakened, and stuff blows up all because we didn't spend enough time learning about other cultures.
Both locally and globally, the Assimilationist Model's prescription for curing terrorist ills is the same. For the affected countries to learn about the values of their attackers and strive to accommodate them. To provide financial benefits and various forms of affirmative action to neutralize Islamic grievances and show respect by promoting and normalizing Islam, both locally and globally. This will harmonize Muslims and non-Muslims together within the emerging global society. And then everyone can join hands and live peacefully together under the enlightened rule of a vast global bureaucracy.
While the Assimilationist Model emerged out of attempts by First World countries to actually assimilate Muslims, in its present state it is essentially a prescription for what is at best mutual assimilation, and what is at worst, a Muslim takeover. And what is worse, the Assimilationist Model is the dominant model used by politicians, academics, business leaders and the political and intellectual elite of almost every society currently targeted by Islam.
And there is a reason for that. Where the Clash of Civilizations model presents a global showdown in which not only is there no avoiding a global conflict, but that conflict will also disrupt emerging trade, international cooperation and global governance mechanisms-- the Assimilationist Model is an essentially optimistic one that says that if we all "buckle down" and make some cultural sacrifices, censor our cartoons, pay fealty to the cultural importance of Mosque and Koran, and avoid eating in public around Ramadan time, in exchange we'll benefit from from globalism abroad and multiculturalism at home (read as a dirt cheap workforce that can help fund our already bankrupt socialist systems). It's no wonder that the Assimilationist Model is so popular among the ruling elite, since it assumes that with a little cultural tinkering, everyone can be made happy. Even if it's under Sharia law. The details don't really matter to them, only the big picture does .
The different viewpoints inherent in these two models, the Clash of Civilizations and the Assimilationist Model underlie virtually all of the debate going on about Islam and the West. And what is so insidious about the Assimilationist Model is that it represents the "easy shortcut" in which societies begin trying to win over Muslims, and by the time they realize it isn't working they see no other alternative short of civil war for dealing with the problem, and this only reinforces their commitment to the Assimilationist Model as the only remaining option.
It is easy to understand why the Assimilationist Model is so dominant, given two choices, most people will choose the "easy way" out. Most people will also try to choose the nicer one, in order to feel better about themselves. The Assimilationist Model offers a minimum of sacrifice up front. There's no need to fight wars or contemplate international alliances against a rising evil. All you really have to do is run some ads, meet with some Muslim leaders, address their concerns and you're done for the day. It seems easy and at first it is. But then the demands get worse and worse, and even when you address them the violence increase. And you're caught inside the trap, and the only way to get out is chew your own leg off, on a national scale. But how many modern leaders are prepared to do that? And so they keep repeating the same futile gestures, putting more and more on the table, in the hopes that at some point the Assimilationist Model will kick in and their society will be saved. Of course the only thing that finally kicks in, is Sharia law and another addition to the Ummah, once the tipping point has been reached.
The difference between the Assimilationist Model and the Clash of Civilizations is the difference between a slot machine that asks for a quarter and a training course in electrical engineering that asks for ten thousand dollars. The first seems tempting, because it asks for very little up front and offers a huge reward. While the other asks for a lot up front and doesn't offer nearly as much down the road, and requires a lot of hard work. And much of the West's political leadership is no longer geared up for sacrifices and hard work, but for socialist bread and circuses, and the Assimilationist Model fits nicely into that mold.
But the intellectual failure of the Assimilationist Model goes even further back, because it's really the model that the West adopted for use against Communist and other far left wing workers' movements, which focused on depriving them of their base by improving conditions for workers. Since then the First World has adapted that same model for use in pacifying virtually any form of dangerous social discontent. But there's a basic disconnect between applying a model meant to deal with an ideological threat to a religious and cultural war. Because while Islam functions at the ideological level, its primary appeal functions at a cultural, national and religious level.
Islam is not simply a manifestation of discontent due to economic or social barriers, but the Manifest Destiny of Muslims in building a global Caliphate. It cannot be waved away with aid money, affirmative action or even showing respect for Islam. The Assimilationist Model is based on the fallacy that Islamism can be neutralized by coddling Muslims. It is profoundly and deeply wrong in this regard, because it fails to understand the power and appeal of Islam. But the fault lies in the left which following its Marxist model of class warfare has coded every social movement as coming in response to economic inequality. And the level of acceptance for the Assimilationist Model demonstrates the level of penetration by the basic ideas behind Marxism... even when those ideas were used to counter the rise of Marxist groups.
The left's intellectual dominance in the First World has wedded its political elite to a worldview in which local and global conflicts can be reduced to either greed on the part of developed nations and groups, or outrage against economic inequality by undeveloped nations and groups. The latter half of the 20th century has overlain those ideas with dollops of tolerance and respect, but the underlying idea remains the same. That you resolve a conflict by divide the Haves from the Have Nots, and assuming the latter can be appeased by remedying the wrongs done to them by the Haves.
The "Have and the Have Not" formula so vital to the Marxist worldview is so thorough embedded that it cannot envision actual Islamist motives as anything except as an insanity that can be pacified by weaning away their followers with economic, social and cultural incentives, or the inventions of intolerant conservative elements within their own society who are seeking to disrupt their attempt at national and global harmony.
This is why the Assimilationist Model has become a fact of life, whether it's in Europe, where governments seek to charm Muslims by showing them respect, or America, where the government is planning to spend billions to lure away Taliban fighters from their machine guns, to Israel, where the endless peace process continues dangling a limited state before terrorists who remain committed to destroying their country.
Because it is easy, because it accommodates the facile worldview of the left and provides minimum disruption to their plans for a global order-- the Assimilationist Model remains very hard to shake. Its optimism and humanism makes it seem morally indefensible to its followers. But its fatal flaw, like that of all utopian delusions, is that it is completely unreal.
The core meaning of utopia is a place that cannot exist. The Assimilationist Model too posits a mythical place brought to life by the ideological will and intellectual laziness of a civilization at war, but refusing to acknowledge it. The rate of global Muslim violence has been steadily increasing, and while the proponents of the Assimilationist Model will always defend it by finding new sources to blame for growing Muslim outrage, almost as quickly as Osama bin Laden's videotaped ghost does (US Troops in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Global Warming, Western Culture, the WTO), this sort of intellectual sloppiness cannot even begin to explain why Muslim violence is not limited to the West, why it is not limited to developed countries, why in fact its only distinctive characteristic is the Muslim violence itself.
The Clash of Civilizations remains the only rational explanation and prescription for action. But it is also a difficult one, both practically and morally for many people to accept. But understanding the other side, requires understanding the flaws of the Assimilationist Model. For it is by understanding the nature of another's delusion, that we can begin to show them the truth.
(Spanish Language Translation at REFLEXIONES SOBRE MEDIO ORIENTE Y EL MUNDO)