What if Trump’s upcoming speech in Saudi Arabia signifies a shift at the level of discourse — one that effectively propels international relations into a new, post clash of civilizations framework? A post clash framework no longer requires any allusion to the idea that the west has a moral duty to help Islam revive its lost greatness, etc. The vision of the Neo-Orientalists (Neocons and Neoliberals alike) sought to find allies within Muslim communities to mutually ‘reform’ Islam by identifying Muslim reformers eligible to receive our support is simply no longer necessary.
What undergirded the clash discourse was a false binary logic, wherein conflict across Islamic and Western societies resided first and foremost along an ontological chasm of difference between these two cultures. This vulgar worldview-based theory of conflict was in fact good news to policy elites because it firstly de-privileged the site of antagonism away from capital, economic oppression and placed policy solutions along the empty shifting register of identity of identity and culture. From this assessment point, the task became one of bridging the endless cultural divide. It called forth an ultimately unbridgeable gap where dialogue and communication were to serve as the primary medicine, and replacement for any examination of systemic changes. Obama’s Cairo speech in 2008 was filled with optimistic efforts to re-frame the narrative on how the west talks about Islam, highlighting the interconnected cultural opportunities that come with western Muslim immigrants in American social life. But Obama could only remain within the clash discourse, a static space where, much like all of his other policies, only recycled a veneer of optics and surface allusions to personal responsibility and the importance of understanding the other.
The clash discourse has been a zombie discourse for years, much like neoliberalism as an economic philosophy; the clash discourse has lived on as a barely existing drive within a much larger zombie body. The clash of civilizations thesis has long been seen as a sort of terrible joke but a joke that still guides the overarching theory of how to promote stable relations across the cultural divide. The clash discourse has always been about attaining market stability, but where we are headed now is towards a unitary logic that recognizes the relations across the divide as not particularly animated by strong difference. The new paradigm that will replace the clash discourse is a vulgar capitalist realism where the world scene is composed of desperate states acting out of a shared commitment to preserve capital flows, whether black market or globalist supply lines.
Perhaps it is time for the old clash discourse disciples to up their game and adopt a revised platform, one that would finally be inclusive of a broader set of system transformation demands as the only way to truly bridge the otherwise fictitious chasm between Islam and the West. In other words, what if Trump’s cowboy capitalist realism paradigm is an opportunity to present a new direction, one that would be third track diplomatic, outside of government, where Muslim-West relations gain a different site of autonomy other than the site of the government and think tank nexus?
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