Professor: Cultural Conflicts Began Before Sept. 11 Attacks

A professor from the American University of Beirut spoke to
members of the Muncie community Wednesday evening about the
relationship of the Islamic world and the Western world in a
lecture and discussion forum at the Alumni Center.

Ahmad S. Moussali, a professor of Islamic and Western political
thought, explained that the process of developing the complex
relationship between Islamic and Western cultures started centuries
ago, not at the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He described the
collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting ideology of
democratization of the world as a more recent catalyst leading to
conflict.

“They perceive themselves as an important player in the collapse
of the Soviet Union,” Moussali said of powerful Islamic
fundamentalist groups that recognized the Soviet Union as an
atheistic country. He said a succession of events since then had
put them on a course against the United States and Europe, adding
that the conflict has moved from nationalism.

“We are now entering a new phase of confrontation, which is the
clash of civilizations,” he said. “The United States ideology does
not fit into their new, emerging world order.”

Pointing out that the Taliban follows an ultratraditionalist
rather than a fundamental movement, Moussali said that confusion
exists even in the Arabic world about the difference between
fundamental Islam as a faith and as a political empowerment.

“For a fundamentalist, religion becomes more important as a
political instrument,” Moussali said, noting that religion became a
force to empower people and that those oppressed and out of hope
resort to radicalism. He added that those connected to Osama bin
Ladin are among the most radical.

Forecasting the future of America in Iraq, Moussali said the
United States must allow all Iraqi political groups to represent
themselves to create a new government, and he called for a removal
of U.S. troops as soon as possible. He does not, however, see his
wish coming true anytime soon.

“It’s not promising as it stands right now,” he said. “They [the
United States] don’t want to finish it quick.”

Dee Moser, 64, attended the lecture and has a son currently
serving in the National Guard in Afghanistan.

“The conflict has been going on for so many years,” she said.
“It’s not going to be over with in just few months. One election is
not going to take care of it.”

Moser is a member of the Muncie branch of the American
Association of University Women (AAUW), a group that collaborated
with the Ball State International Women’s Club to bring Moussali to
speak.

Alice Bennet, president of the AAUW, said Moussali expressed
well the need for cooperation between the cultures rather than
denomination.

“I thought it was such a well-reasoned presentation,” she
said.

Ball State is the only Indiana university Moussali is visiting
through the “Understanding Contemporary Islam” program. He will be
speaking at local schools, community gatherings and at the
university until Oct 4.

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