Culture war?

mithuro.com/presscuefiles/january/contrast.jpgThe ‘clash of cultures’ is more than just throwing Danone Fruit Corners or Muller Light in a food fight (in an attempt to put the ‘hurt’ back in ‘yoghurt’). Its convenient short-hand for giving titanic moral and emotional weight to conflicts whose motivations are a little more prosaic, like say those between Al Qaeda and the West. At least that’s how Observer columnist Khaled Diab saw it last week in a piece that outlined how many of us, on both sides of the Islamism vs Democracy ‘struggle’, have been duped into believing that a fight over natural resources, land and political power was in fact a fight between good and evil.

It’s particularly tempting for Christians to believe this, because Islam is, of course, The Competition, if not The Enemy. And if we believe that Jesus is the only way to God in the afterlife and a truly fulfilled existence in this one, we can logically not be in too much sympathy with Islam’s plans for taking over the world. At the same time we also need to remember that we ourselves wish to see the entire world become Christian and should realise that such an idea is as profoundly distasteful to many secularists as the idea of a Muslim world is to the BNP.

It is falling into clash of cultures thinking that has meant that while many Christians believe that the Iraq war is about oil more than freedom, they still somehow believe it’s not such a bad idea, because at least it’s fighting our enemy, Islam. A popular t-shirt depicting the war said we were ‘freeing the %*#$ out of them’. The death and suffering caused by this mental laziness is easy to imagine, if not to calculate (Allied forces in Iraq do not count Iraqi dead).

The fact is, as Mr Diab points out, Iran has better democratic credentials than our ally, Saudi Arabia (and is lower on the Open Doors list of top Christian persecutors), and yet is denounced as the enemy of democracy. Despite many such inconsistencies, we often lazily bvelieve the rhetoric of both George Bush and Osama Bin Laden: that this is a simple fight between concepts of good and evil.

Some aspects are simple One culture worships money, that parades licentiousness and sex as base commodities, despising its poor and glorifying the rich, is the first culture in history where trade dominates all other aspects of society. The other is conservative, simplistic and governed by a strict moral code that demands personal restraint and public acknowledgement of the importance of religion. Obviously there are other factors at play, particularly from a Christian point of view, but it is certainly not a done deal (if we are really experiencing a clash of cultures), that we are on the side of right. Ignoring that fact, regardless of the side on which you generally fall, will allow lovers of freedom to embrace regime change and lovers of the religion of ‘peace with God’ to endorse suicide bombers.

Similar things have been happening in domestic party politics over the last week. The beleaguered Brown government has been pushing its MPs to vote in favour of its proposals to extend detention without trial to 42 days. Failing to do so, it has intimated, will damage the party as a whole. Now, I’m no Tory. Personally I was cursing my luck that the disgraced Tory MEP was called Den and not Ben Dover, just for the sake of a cheap joke. But further denigrating the protection from detention without trial (that has been in British law since Magna Carta) is something that is worth opposing, even if it sinks the Labour Party. Domestic culture clash or no.

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