Islam and the West Intercultural Altercation and Compatibility

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In this paper, I will address one of the trivial matters faced by analysts in terms of relations between the Islamic world and the West. How can we discuss profoundly disruptive social and political issues in ways that encourage change rather than escalate conflict? By utilizing narrative analysis as a methodology, we examine the most common “narratives” that representatives of Islam and the West use to organize thoughts about conflict: narratives of intercultural confrontation and narratives of intercultural compatibility. After noting that both Western and Muslim narrators of these narratives make a number of strikingly similar claims, we conclude by suggesting that “a new narrative” emphasizing intercultural complementarity can help conflict practitioners reframe differences and promote peaceful coexistence.

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It has turned out to be ordinary to see that the Islamic world and the West appear to be buried in an increasing cycle of political and social conflict, and the most significant source of conflict is the profoundly disrupted nature of American relations with the Muslim Middle East. In matters related to Persian Gulf geopolitics, Israeli Palestinian conflict, and the politics of Islamic revivalism, American policies in favor of maintaining stability and dominance through a network of regional alliances seem to conflict with regional desires for dramatic change. Tensions generated by conflicting interests and aspirations overflow into the social domain, resulting in the politicization of identities and an escalating conflict dynamic in which the fundamental values, beliefs, and mores of the “other” are perceived as threatening and dangerous. As a result, an atmosphere of uncertainty, distrust, and disrespect ensues where attempts to dominate and subjugate adversaries supersede efforts to collaborate in the pursuit of intercultural understanding and mutual political accommodation. On both sides of the troubled relationship between Americans and the Muslim Middle East, there is deep frustration and a growing belief in the futility of dialogue.

The present study takes a cautiously optimistic approach to relations between Islam and the West and is less concerned about explaining “how we got here” than with exploring “where we might go next.” Instead of excessively focusing on cultural and religious factors, this paper assumes that cultural narratives are crucial and diverse. Recognizing the importance and pluralism of cultural narratives about conflict allows us to grapple with the constitutive impact of identity and deeply embedded meanings, without contributing to harmful stereotypes that ignore latent possibilities for conflict transformation.

To avoid becoming “trapped inside a story,” we must critically examine the content and roots of these polarizing narratives while exploring non-dominant counter-narratives of intercultural compatibility and complementarity. The existence of striking cross-cultural parallels between various narratives signals both danger and opportunity. Parallel themes of enduring confrontation and rivalry suggest that further escalation of conflict remains a genuine possibility, yet counter-narratives concerning intercultural compatibility and even value complementarity offer hope for improved relations.

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Islam and the West Intercultural altercation and Compatibility. (2019, Jan 06). Retrieved from