June 08, 2009

Obama and the Clash of Civilizations

President Obama was in Cairo recently and addressed students of Cairo University.
Egypt is of course one of the oldest civilaztions on the planet with the pyramids having been built some 5,000 years ago — the human mind with a human lifespan of 60/70 years is certainly incapable of making sense of a timeframe that long.
A city like Cairo must have seen so much through the thousands of years of its history.
Today, it stands at the crossroads of the 'Clash of Civilizations' debate between Western and Islamic civilizations.
President Obama sought to 're-connect' with the 'alienated' Muslim world by this speech.
He addressed some central issues:
  • Iran's march towards acquiring nuclear weapons,
  • Israel's right to exist,
  • the right of the Palestininian people to a homeland,
  • the threat of Al Qaida and Taliban in Pakistan/Afghanistan,
  • the plight of women ... or, the 'right' of women to live the way they want to ... whether they want to get educated and pursue a career or wear burqas and stay home, and
  • the indispensable need for 'education.'

The students seemed to agree with Obama's take on these issues — only issue seems to be whether the students of Cairo University are representative of the population of the larger Muslim world.

In the Indian context, one can certainly say that students of St. Stephen's College in New Delhi do not represent the average Indian . . . which is unfortunate, but also the plain truth.

About the clash of civilizations issue, it is kind of unfortunate that this likelihood at all exists . . . I think the root cause of this is because people tend to take religion too seriously. So, to start off, people need to take a more critical look at their religious heritage. One can say this without any sense of bias that people in the West broadly have enough people who are skeptical about the contents of the Bible . . . more so in Europe, perhaps, than in America.

Unfortunately, there are not nearly as many skeptical Muslims on the planet who are willing to be skeptical about the contents of the Quran.

As long as people want to hold on blindly to old ways of thinking and old ways of doing things, the scope for conflicts will persist.

With all the insights into the workings of nature that science has afforded us, I find it astonishing that people just continue to overlook those insights . . . and this includes so-called 'educated' people as well ...

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