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“Clash of Western and Islamic Civilizations” 2012 A.D. began circa 800 B.C. in Sicily

“Clash of Western and Islamic Civilizations” 2012 A.D. began circa 800 B.C. in Sicily

Tom Verso (October 17, 2012)

In the Summer 1993 issue of the highly prestigious “Foreign Affairs” journal published by the very influential “Council on Foreign Relations”; Samuel P. Huntington, Ivy League scholar and advisor to Presidents Carter and Reagan, published what has come to be a seminal article on foreign relations for the twenty-first century: “The Clash of Civilizations?”. In this article, and a follow up book by the same title, with a glowing ‘Forward’ by the dean of American foreign policy Zbigniew Brzezinski, Huntington argued that the post-Cold War era would not be characterized by conflicts between nation-states; rather, conflicts between aggregations of nation-states called ‘Civilizations’. The quintessential example of such a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ was to be, and indeed has come to be, between Western Civilization and the Islamic Civilization.....Huntington notes the conflict between Western Christian civilization and the Islamic goes back 1300 years. However, his history is shortsighted. In fact long before Jesus and Mohammad, the people of the West conflicted with the people of the Middle East. Indeed, today’s “Clash” can be traced directly and continuously back to Sicily circa 800 B.C.


 Introduction “Glass Bead Games” vs. Relevant and Meaningful History


The difference between Southern and Northern Italian history and culture is the profound depth and breath of the South’s history and culture relative to the minuscule 250-year Arno Valley Renaissance experience that essentially defines the North. Whereas Italy south of Rome includes the history and culture of the ancient Mediterranean and the fountainhead of modern Western civilization, the crème de la crème of northern culture (the Renaissance) is a copy of the original authentic ancient southern Mediterranean. Factor out Renaissance art, and northern history and culture loses much of its significance in Western history and culture. 
For example, while Renaissance northern Italy hung tenaciously to its city-state form of government, the Two Sicilies was anticipating the rest of Europe’s move to the nation state model. (see: Atiquated Renaissance...” in Related Articles box)). Indeed, the great genius of Machiavelli was spent trying to preserve the city-state political economy. A quintessential Renaissance man he was looking backwards instead of to the future. (see: Toynbee, A Study of History vol. III p. 341). The very meaning of Renaissance entails looking back to the ancient Mediterranean culture. There was no need for the South to look back, for the ancient Mediterranean was embodied in its culture.
Given the factual depth of southern-Italian history, how pathetically shallow and irrelevant the Italian Studies curriculums in the American university system; limited as they are to Renaissance studies. Hesse’s Nobel Prize winning novel Magister Ludi - The Glass Bead Game comes to mind, and of course Pino Aprile’s brilliant study of the South, Terroni.
For example, what has come to be called the Clash of Civilizations between the West and the Middle East has a continuous history back to the eight-century of the first millennium B.C. in Sicily. Every day, morning newspapers and evening television news shows feature stories about Western blood and treasure expended in the Middle East. Our youth are killed and maimed each day, and our economies are being wrecked by the trillions of dollars spent warring in the Middle East. 
Every casualty and dollar spent in Middle East wars can be traced historically back to ancient Sicily.
While the Italian American literati, playing glass bead games, bury their students in the minutia of Raphael’s technique and Dante’s punctuations, the profound and morning newspaper relevant history of Italy south of Rome is completely ignored.
Nation States vs. Civilizations
Writing in the early part of the twentieth century the great world historian and master classical scholar Arnold J. Toynbee called into question the prevail university historiography of national histories. He wrote:
Institutions that dominate a particular age of a particular society have influenced the outlook and activity of historians who happen to have been brought up under its shadow. Nationalism has exercised dominion over our Western Society in our age. (Study Vol. I p. 9)
“[Accordingly,] the spirit of Nationality has appealed to historians with special force...the national standpoint has proved specially attractive to modern Western historians. (Study Vol. I p. 10)
Toynbee went on to discuss in great detail the limitations of national histories and posited that aggregations of states he called “civilizations” were more meaningful units of study. He wrote: “Societies of this species are commonly called civilizations.” (Study Vol. I p. 147)
Writing in 1934, he identified five contemporary “civilizations”:
“[There are] five living representatives of [civilizations] – Western, Orthodox Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and far Eastern. (Study Vol. I p. 51)
Toynbee developed his historiographic concepts in his twelve-volume opus A Study of History published in sections between 1934 and 1961. In it he identified and discussed in mind boggling scholarly detail more than twenty “civilizations” in world history beginning with the ancient river civilizations (e.g. Egypt) down to the present.
As to be expected, a thinker who challenges the fundamental precepts of academia is first ridiculed and then ignored. So it has been with Toynbee. However, with Samuel Huntington’s seminal 1993 Foreign Affairs article, Toynbee is about to get his due.
Samuel P. Huntington writes:
“World politics is entering a new phase...the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between...different civilizations (Foreign Affairs Summer 1993; p. 22 emp. +)
In short, up through World War II conflicts were largely intra-Civilization, i.e. between nations within a civilization. For example, France and Germany, both part of Western Civilization, fought three wars against each other between 1870 and 1945. Now in the European Union and NATO they are united together in the inter-Civilization conflict between Western Civilization and the Islamic.
Nature of Civilizations
Following Toynbee, Huntington recognized the limitations of trying to understand social dynamics (e.g. causes of conflicts) in terms of nation states. He writes:
“It is far more meaningful now to group countries not in terms of their political or economic systems or in terms of their level of economic development but rather in terms of their culture and civilizations.”
A civilization is a cultural entity. Civilizations are defined both by common objective elements, such as language, history, religion, customs, institutions, and by the subjective self-identification of the people. (p.23-24 emp.+)
Huntington identifies
 “Seven or eight major civilizations which shape the world: Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African.” (p. 25)
Clash of Civilizations – West vs. Islam
The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilization’s will be the battle lines of the future.” (p22)
Prophetically, writing in 1993, Huntington realized that the 1991 first Gulf war to remove Iraq from Kuwait was just the beginning of the most recent episode of the centuries old clash between the Western and Islamic Civilizations.
“Conflict along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilizations have been going on for 1,300 years...This centuries-old military interaction between the West and Islam is unlikely to decline.” (p. 31)
“On both sides the interaction between Islam and the West is seen as a clash of civilizationThe West’s next confrontation,’ observes M. J. Akbar an Indian Muslim author, ‘is definitely going to come from the Muslim world’.” (p. 32)
Writing in 1993...Did that turn out to be the understatement of the century? Preceding as it did the Western/Islamic wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya; drone bombings of Pakistan and Yemen; with Syria and Iran waiting in the wings.
However, while it is accurate to say, as Huntington does, that the Christian Western Civilization has been clashing with Islamic for 1,300 years, it is historically inaccurate to limit the conflict to just 1,300 years.
It is also inaccurate to leave the impression that the cause of the clash is based on differences of religion when, in fact, the Western European people have been in a continual state of conflict oscillating from overt war with, to economic exploitation of,  Middle Eastern people for nearly three millennia – long before Christ or Mohammad.
The Greeks under Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. preceded the nineteenth and twenty-first century Western invasions of Afghanistan. Indeed, the current axis of the clash between the West and the Middle East, running from the Syrian Mediterranean coast along the Turkish border; through Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan; and into Pakistan, closely mimics Alexander’s conquering line of march.
- Before the twenty-first century Western invasion of Iraq the Romans under Crassus invaded in the first century B.C.
- Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in the ninetieth Century was anticipated by Julius Caesar in the first century A.D.
- The ninteenth century French and twentieth century Italian colonization of Algeria and Libya, and this years twenty-first century bombings of Libya were preceded by the Roman Scipio Africanus’ destruction of Carthage in the second century B.C.
Pushing back into the history of the Mediterranean divide between the people Western Europe and the people of the Middle East, one finds the origins of this near three millennia conflict in Sicily in the eight century B.C.
 Clash of Civilizations Phase I – Long Before Islam ... Sicily
The highly renown and seminal ninetieth century classical scholar Edward A. Freeman posits:
“From Cyprus to the Balearic Islands, they have been struggled for between Aryan [i.e. Western] and Semitic [i.e. Middle Eastern]...” (Historical Essays 1879, “Sicilian Cycles” p. 428; in brackets [...] my paraphrasing – see addendum at end.)
He then notes that in recent’ history the“struggle” was “between the faith of Christendom and the faith of Islam.”
However, before the Christian/Islam “struggle”, there was “a struggle between an earlier Aryan and an earlier Semitic creed” in Sicily.
“And Sicily stands out as the island which has been twice struggled for between the Aryan and the Semite 
in one age between the faith of Apollôn and Athênê and the faith of Moloch and Ashtaroth 
in another age, as a continuation of the same strife, between the faith of Christ and the faith of Mahomet.” (p. 430 emp.+)
In short, in the first third of the eight century B.C. the Phoenicians in the West (Palermo) and the Greeks in the East (Taormina) began colonizing Sicily in earnest; this lead to the first major conflict between the progenitors of Western and Islamic Civilizations which has continued to the present day.
Sicily, in our first clear historic view of the land, has already become, the battle-field of Aryan and Semitic man, of the rotaries of Zeus and of Moloch.”(p.432)
The Greeks and Phoenicians expanded to the point that they came into conflict leading to war. The Phoenicians sacked the Greek city Akragas (present day Agrigento) and the Greeks under the leadership of Agathokles attacked Phoenician cities in North Africa.
The Sicilian Phoenicians losing ground to the Greeks called on their brother Phoenicians in Carthage for help, which turned the tide against the Greeks. However, the Romans ultimately settled the first phase of the Western Middle East conflict in favor of the West by defeating the Phoenician/Carthaginian Middle East.
Clash of Civilizations Phase II – Christianity and Islam
With the fall of the Roman Empire the next chapter in West vs. Middle East conflict took the form of Christian vs. Islam.
The Islamic Arabs invaded Europe up into France (Battle of Tours 735 A.D.), sacked Genoa in 935 A.D; and colonized Spain, Sardinia and Sicily.
At the Eleventh century Western Christians began taking the battle to the Islamic Arabs culminated in three centuries of Western invasion of the Middle East called the Crusades.
- 1016 Pisans and Genoese drove Muslims from Sardinia...the Pisans raided North Africa
- 1072 the Normans captured Sicily
- 1095 the Western Christians invade the Levant (i.e. begin of the Middle East Crusades)
- 1663 the Middle Eastern Ottoman Turks laid siege to Vienna  
In 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt beginning the West’s military, economic and political domination of the Middle East that has lasted down to the present day.
And so it has gone and indeed goes back and forth between the people of Western European Civilization (pre and post Christianity) and the people of the Middle East (pre and post Islam). And, it all began near three thousand years ago in Sicily, 800 years before Christ and 1400 years before Muhammad
It is historically inaccurate to predicate the cause of the current conflict to religious differences. Clearly, the 1600 year pre-Islamic conflict with the West attest to that, and seemingly significant numbers of Muslims understand the historic complexity of the conflict.
Huntington cogently writes:
“Whatever their political or religious opinions, Muslims agree that basic differences exist between their culture and Western culture.”  (e-book location  l. 4169)
More specifically he quotes Sheik Ghanoushi an Islamic fundamentalist who sees the basis of conflict not limited to religion:
“The bottom line is than our societies are based on values other that those of the West” (l. 4172)
Again, note that Ghannoushi did not make reference to different religions; rather, values, which denotes a much broader range of difference (e.g. economic systems, forms of government, concepts of law, etc.)
In short, the cause of the conflict must be sought in broader sociological categories. To say, the current clash of Western and Islamic Civilization is based on religion is false.
History demonstrates that. The people of Western Europe have been conflicting with the people of the Middle East under the aegis of many different religions for near 3,000-years. Obviously, the cause must be sought in factors other than religion.
Finally, given the fundamental place of Sicily in this three-millennia old conflict, wouldn’t it make pedagogical sense for universities that bill themselves as Italian Studies to include the history of Italy South of Rome in their curriculums? 

regarding Freeman’s use of the terms Aryan and Semitic
Writing in the late nineteenth century the terms “Aryan” and “Semitic” did not connote the ugly racist ideas that the Nazis attached to them. The terms in Freeman’s day essentially were linguistic, denoting ‘groups’ of languages”. However, in as much as language groups are also associated with geographic area, languages were at times associated with racial groups.
For example, writing in the 1892 Ninth Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, F. Max Muller Professor of Comparative philology, University of Oxford posits:
 Aryan, a technical term, applied to one of the great families of language, which extends from India to Europe, and which for that reason, is called also Indo-European.” (Vol. II )
Similarly about “Semitic”, Prof. Theodor Noldeke University of Strasburg writes:
The name ‘Semitic Languages’ is use to designate a group of Asiatic and African languages, some living and some dead, namely Hebrew and Phoenician, Aramaic, Assyrian, Arabic, Ethiopic” (Vol. XXI)
Notice that Muller identifies Semitic language with Asia and Africa, which of course implies race. Nevertheless, this is just an anthropological statement; there is no implication of racial superiority of inferiority.
Clearly, when Professor Freeman used the term “Aryan”, he is referring to the people of the Western Europe and the word “Semitic”, denotes the people of the Middle East.

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Nice Read, But

A few issues I have are: -I wish this were more "readable" for the lay person (read, non-historically thinking Southern-Italian American) though I suppose they wouldn't be bothered reading this anyway. -I feel the title is a little misleading on two levels, one, that Islam didn't exist until well after Christ's birth, and its forcible spread did not really begin until well after 1000AD, so the title doesn't seem to justify the piece, as you go on explaining this. Relatedly, I also feel quoting a cultural/anthropological piece written in the 1930's can be very dangerous. The second issue I take is the idea that these are "conflicts" and ultimately negative human experiences. I feel that the positives of having such diverse people inhabiting the South made us the great people we were, and for those of us who still differentiate, like you and I, still are. From food, to customs, to language, and even religious practices, I feel that the presence of other Mediterranean peoples (and in this group I include North Africans) has been beneficial to the survival of who and what we are. Its only since unification that these differences were seen as "drawbacks" and help perpetuate the myth of the Terroni and of the Mezzogiorno by an ultimately racist northern Europe, of which Rome and Turin are a part of.

I'd love to hear what you think about my comments.