Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ is still upsetting the complacent

2 October 2013

10:53 AM

2 October 2013

10:53 AM

It is twenty years since Samuel Huntington’s essay ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’ was first published in Foreign Affairs. On Monday night I took part in a discussion on BBC Radio 3’s Nightwaves about the article (and the resulting book) which turned oddly nasty.

I have always been a qualified admirer of Huntington’s most famous work (‘qualified’ because like most people who have read the book I admire its range and grasp while disagreeing with certain of its conclusions). But broadly admire it or not, it appears to be a difficult work to discuss. This is largely because it suffers the double-bind of being misunderstood by people who have not read it. Nine times out of ten when people refer to Huntington they suggest that Huntington thought it inevitable that civilizations would clash or, more absurdly, that he actively urged civilisations to do so. Such people have not properly read what they are trying to talk about.

But there is another reason why some people get enraged by Huntington’s thesis, which is that it is clear-headed and reveals certain truths some people would rather not consider. Nothing more disturbs a mind muddled by impoverished ideology than a dash of clear thinking. Such thinking is, after all, potentially lethal to them. If it were to catch on it might end their careers.

I found myself reflecting on this after Monday night’s programme. For after a thoughtful contribution from Gideon Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs, I found myself in a studio discussion with a person who appeared so viscerally enraged by Huntington’s thesis that she seemed stripped of all manners and reason. Her name was Maria Misra and she was billed as a lecturer and fellow in modern history at Keble College Oxford. All I can say is that the standard of history fellowships at Keble College has declined steeply of late.


Perhaps Ms Misra is always a rude and unhappy person. But on this occasion she seemed annoyed at even having to consider Huntington’s work. It was a bizarre manner for an academic to adopt. Why should an academic appear so impatient at having to discuss what is at the very least an interesting and highly influential thesis by a deceased author?

To the extent that she had a point, Ms Misra’s main one was deeply basic: it was that civilizations are not ‘homogenous’ but on the contrary are highly varied within. I conceded this repeatedly and pointed out that Huntington spends much of his book pointing out the same. But it was when the discussion turned to religion that Misra’s sand-throwing agenda became most obvious. I pointed out that religion is — as Huntington says — a considerable driving force in world events.

Here is what Ms Misra had to say in reply:

‘Insofar as cultural conflicts emerge, from my knowledge of global history they’re often much more around language than they are around religion…In places like, well, in the Ukraine in the 1990’s, in India in the 19th and 20th centuries, among the Uighurs in China. I suppose to a casual observer these can look like conflicts which are configured by religion but on closer inspection they’re often configured more by language’. 

If the subject under discussion were not so serious I would have burst out laughing. For this reply suggests a total illiteracy about global events. Saying that cultural conflicts are mainly a ‘language’ issue is the sort of thing a cub ‘deconstructionist’ might say to try to distract attention from the fact they don’t know what they are talking about. But it does absolutely nothing to help understand or explain the forces which propel groups like al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorist groups worldwide. In fact it obfuscates an issue that is in essence really quite straight-forward.

As I left the studio I was left wondering two things. Firstly what those parents who re-mortgage their houses to send their children to university would think about their children being ‘educated’ by a mind as addled as Ms Misra’s. And secondly, I suppose I felt a surge of admiration for Huntington. After all, when a piece of writing can provoke such rage two decades after publication and several years after the author’s death, it suggests the work might contain that rarest of things: the raw nerve of unwanted truth.

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Show comments
  • Cornelius Bonkers

    Douglas, why bother? You seem to live in a world open to change and contingency, and committed to free speech. Whereas those you have most trouble with and who have most trouble with you, do not. I always enjoy your exchanges but what is point in having these debates? Open societies vs closed ones; freedom of thought vs obedience to sacred texts. There can only be one outcome…why not spend your time doing something which can have effect in YOUR/MY reality?

  • Shoe On Head

    read it many years a ago.

    clash of civilisations = armchair anthropology clap trap.

  • andy_gill

    I really admire the way you managed to control yourself when Maria Misra started squawking. She was really hilarious.

  • David Ainsworth

    “Heart of smugness.
    Unlike Belgium, Britain is still complacently ignoring the gory cruelties of its
    Maria Misra, The Guardian, Tuesday 23 July 2002

    So the Belgians are to return to the Heart of Darkness in an attempt finally to
    exorcise their imperial demons. Stung by another book cataloguing the violence
    and misery inflicted by King Leopold’s empire on the Congo in the late 19th and
    early 20th century, the state-funded Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels has commissioned a group of historians to pass authoritative judgment on accusations of genocide: forced labour, systematic rape, torture and murder
    of the Congolese, around 10 million of whom are thought to have died as a

    This is not the first time that the Belgian empire has been singled out for censure. Back in the Edwardian era, British humanitarians spilled much ink over its excesses and Conrad’s novella was corralled into service to show Leopold’s Congo as a sort of horrific “other” to Britain’s more uplifting colonialism.

    Complacency about Britain’s imperial record lingers on. In the post-September 11 orgy of self-congratulation about the west’s superiority, Blair’s former foreign policy
    guru, Robert Cooper, and a host of journalistic flag-wavers were urging us not
    to be ashamed of empire. Cooper insisted empire was “as necessary now as
    it had been in the 19th century”. The British empire was, we were assured,
    a generally well-intentioned attempt to inculcate notions of good government,
    civilised behaviour and market rationality into less well-favoured societies.

    Is such a rosy view of British imperialism justified? Many argue that it is. After all,
    surely the British have less blood on their hands than the French and the
    Belgians? Wasn’t the British addiction to the free market a prophylactic
    against the horrors of forced labour? And didn’t those peculiar class
    obsessions make them less racist than the rest – silly snobs, but not vicious
    yobs? And isn’t India not only a democracy, but, thanks to the British, one
    with great railways? Perhaps there is a kernel of truth in some of this, but
    there’s also much wilful smugness. While the complex consequences of colonial
    economic policy require extended analysis, it is possible to dispel more
    swiftly the myth that the British Empire, unlike King Leopold’s, was innocent
    of atrocities.

    It has become a modern orthodoxy that Europe’s 20th century was the bloodiest in
    history and that atrocities must be recorded and remembered by society as a
    whole. But while a Black Book of Communism has been compiled and everybody is
    aware of the horrors of nazism, popular historians have been surprisingly
    uninterested in the dark side of the British Empire. There are exceptions, such
    as Mike Davis’s powerful Late Victorian Holocausts, but much else still lies
    buried in the academic literature. Davis and others have estimated that there
    were between 12 and 33 million avoidable deaths by famine in India between 1876
    and 1908, produced by a deadly combination of official callousness and
    free-market ideology. But these were far from being a purely Victorian
    phenomenon. As late as 1943 around 4 million died in the Bengal famine, largely
    because of official policy.

    No one has even attempted to quantify the casualties caused by state-backed forced labour on British-owned mines and plantations in India, Africa and Malaya. But we do know that tens of thousands of often conscripted Africans, Indians and Malays – men, women and children – were either killed or maimed constructing Britain’s imperial railways. Also unquantified are the numbers of civilian deaths caused by British aerial bombing and gassing of villages in Sudan, Iraq and Palestine in the 1920 and 1930s.

    Nor was the supposedly peaceful decolonisation of the British Empire without its gory cruelties. The hurried partition of the Indian subcontinent brought about a
    million deaths in the ensuing uncontrolled panic and violence. The brutal
    suppression of the Mau Mau and the detention of thousands of Kenyan peasants in concentration camps are still dimly remembered, as are the Aden killings of the
    1960s. But the massacre of communist insurgents by the Scots Guard in Malaya in
    the 1950s, the decapitation of so-called bandits by the Royal Marine Commandos
    in Perak and the secret bombing of Malayan villages during the Emergency remain

    One might argue that these were simply the unfortunate consequences of the arrival of economic and political modernity. But does change have to come so brutally? There are plenty of examples of wanton British cruelty to chill the blood even of a hardened Belgian. Who, after all, invented the concentration camp but the British? The scandalous conditions in British camps during the Boer war, where thousands of women and children died of disease and malnutrition, are
    relatively well known. Who now remembers the Indian famine-relief-cum-work
    camps, where gentlemanly British officials conducted experiments to determine
    how few calories an Indian coolie could be fed and still perform hard labour?
    The rations in these camps amounted to less than those at Buchenwald.

    There is Churchill’s assiduous promotion of schemes to cut the costs of imperial defence in India and the Middle East by using aerial bombing, machine gunning and gassing for the control of rebellion, political protest, labour disputes and
    non-payment of taxes. There is the denial of free food to starving south Asians
    on the grounds that it would simply hasten a population explosion among India’s
    “feckless poor”. There is the extraordinary British justification for bombing Sudanese villages after the first world war: Nuer women were, officials
    claimed, of less value to their community than cattle or rifles.

    These facts and figures are not easily culled from textbooks on empire. We don’t have a dedicated museum of empire, but our nearest equivalent, the new Imperial War Museum North, would leave the impression that Britain’s colonial subjects had
    been enthusiastic participants in its wartime crusades to rid the world of want
    and evil.

    Does it matter that the British are smug about their imperial past, that British
    atrocities have been airbrushed from history? One can’t help thinking that Jack
    Straw’s pious missions to India to broker solutions to the Kashmir crisis might
    have more credibility if the British had the good grace to apologise for such
    imperial crimes as the Amritsar massacre. But a more worrying symptom of this
    rosy glossing of the imperial past is the re-emergence of a sort of sanitised
    advocacy of imperialism as a viable option in contemporary international

    The point of cataloguing Britain’s imperial crimes is not to trash our forebears, but to remind our rulers that even the best-run empires are cruel and violent, not
    just the Belgian Congo. Overwhelming power, combined with a sense of boundless
    superiority, will produce atrocities – even among the well intentioned. Let’s
    not forget that Leopold’s central African empire was originally called the
    International Association for Philanthropy in the Congo.”

    • OraEtLabora

      Ever heard of hyperlinks?

  • Joan Varc

    I haven’t stopped laughing since I heard Professor Pat Hudson shouting at Melvyn Bragg and telling him he was a racist on In Our Time in 2010, making a mental note to pity any history graduates of Cardiff Uni where Prof Pat operates. (Is it correct that Prof Pat would be unable to get a job as a history teacher in a Cardiff school if she can’t speak Welsh?)
    Because I regard all educational qualifications in multicultural Britain as very dodgy, Maria Misra and her chums will soon dominate the cultural ethos of Gaddafi University. Oh, I forgot, they already do and even Radio 3 can’t help but be dragged down….

  • Ben

    What a moronic woman. I can’t say i’m surprised an academic would preach this kind of absurdity because i saw it on a daily basis when i was at University. The way politics and economics are now taught at leading Universities, and the blatant mediocrity of those who teach it helps to explain the disastrous slide of western civilisation. It is these people that largely inform the opinions of those who can’t be bothered or do not have the time to research, deliberate and come to their own conclusions. And it is these people who are indoctrinating future generations with their bullcrap.

    Have come to fully ascribe to Schumpeter’s theory that it is these morons that will lead to the downfall of our civilisation: they get worse and worse by the year.

  • JonBW

    I think that Ms Misra is right and that those, like Richard Dawkins, who blame religion for all the World’s ills show an ignorance of history.

    There are numerous examples of conflicts that have nothing to do with religion: in Europe, from the Hundred Years’ War to the First World War: in Korea, in the Middle East (the Ottoman empire was Muslim) and across Africa.

    And many ‘religious’ conflicts look less and less ‘religious’ the more you study them: the French Wars of Religion are a classic example; and the Arab-Israeli conflict only began in earnest with the emergence of secular nationalism. Historians who have studied the Crusades have recognised the crucial role of factors other than faith.

    This is not to say that she was right about everything; but to dismiss her argument about religion is to ignore history.

    After all, how many Quaker terrorist groups are there? And how many wars have the Jehovah’s Witnesses started?

    • Adrian Wainer

      ” I think that Ms Misra is right and that those, like Richard Dawkins, who blame religion for all the World’s ills show an ignorance of history.

      There are numerous examples of conflicts that have nothing to do with religion: in Europe, from the Hundred Years’ War to the First World War: in Korea, in the Middle East (the Ottoman empire was Muslim) and across Africa.

      And many ‘religious’ conflicts look less and less ‘religious’ the more you study them: the French Wars of Religion are a classic example; and the Arab-Israeli conflict only began in earnest with the emergence of secular nationalism. Historians who have studied the Crusades have recognised the crucial role of factors other than faith.

      This is not to say that she was right about everything; but to dismiss her argument about religion is to ignore history.

      After all, how many Quaker terrorist groups are there? And how many wars have the Jehovah’s Witnesses started? “,.

      ” the Arab-Israeli conflict only began in earnest with the emergence of secular nationalism “,.
      Right so Hamas want to destroy the State of Israel because Hamas are secular nationalists, thank you for that useful information did you graduate with a PhD in Middle East Modern History from Keble College Oxford ?

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      • JonBW

        “Right so Hamas want to destroy the State of Israel because Hamas are
        secular nationalists, thank you for that useful information…. ”

        Clearly Hamas are not secular nationalists; however, Hamas emerged only comparatively recently in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

        If you read any decent history, you’ll see that from 1948 up to the 90s (more or less) the Arab forces seeking to destroy Israel were largely secular from the PLO and PFLP to Nasser and the B’aathists).

        One reason that Hamas, Hizbollah and their ilk emerged was the failure of these secular groups.

        And Zionism itself is primarily a secular nationalism.

        • Adrian Wainer

          ” “Right so Hamas want to destroy the State of Israel because Hamas are

          secular nationalists, thank you for that useful information…. ”

          Clearly Hamas are not secular nationalists; however, Hamas emerged only comparatively recently in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

          If you read any decent history, you’ll see that from 1948 up to the 90s (more or less) the Arab forces seeking to destroy Israel were largely secular from the PLO and PFLP to Nasser and the B’aathists).

          One reason that Hamas, Hizbollah and their ilk emerged was the failure of these secular groups.

          And Zionism itself is primarily a secular nationalism. “,.

          Yassir Arafat was and remains a polymorphic shape shifter and the image of the PLO in the 1970s in the West was tailored by Arafat to give the impression that the PLO was a secularist organization when it was and is precisely nothing of the sort. Anyway have a gay day.

          Was Arafat Gay?

      • grammarschoolman

        Nevertheless, her argument about language (of all things) was infantile baloney.

        ‘You say tomayto and I say tomahto. Bang, bang, you’re dead’?

        I think not.

    • Mike

      Whilst its true some religions have not been involved in wars, ‘crusades’ or civil war, it is true that Christianity and its culture has carried it out during the crusades as well as war between protestant and catholic countries in Europe. Similarly Islam and its culture attempted to take over catholic Europe from its soft under belly and latterly has reverted to civil wars amongst themselves as well a fringe militant elements carrying out a terrorist war against the west.

      Today as with the the catholic-protestant wars and the crusades, the rallying call had its source deep in its respective religion. I think the point made by Huntinton was that in most cases of war, it was culture that caused the dispute and culture is derived from religion. In Isalm, culture and religion are essentially one and the same thing compared to Christianity where a more secular approach has evolved separating the two aspects.

      • JonBW

        Except that most wars have not been ‘cultural’ (the Hundred Years War, the American Civil War, the First and Second World War, The Italian wars, the Vietnam War) unless you define ‘cultural’ so broadly that it encompasses political and economic factors.

        During the Crusades and many ‘wars of religion’, Christianity was a rallying point; but it was not by any means the sole ’cause’. The French Wars of Religion saw Catholic fighting Catholic and the (protestant) victor renouncing his faith for reasons of political expediency. It is possible to explain it as a civil war like the Wars of the Roses which happened to include a religious element.

        • global city

          What was the fundamental point of the Crusades?

          What first led to them being called for?
          What was it’s defining rallying cry?

          Where did the Crusaders go and why did they go there?

          All pretty religious sounding to me?

          • JonBW

            Would they have happened without Christianity, though?

            I’d suggest that the answer is ‘probably’.

            • global city

              they probably would have, but any conflict would still have been based on religion, as in fending off Islamic expansion in other parts of the area.

    • global city

      The Crusades were almost entirely religious, though some other motives may have taken the opportunity to be aired through them. They were largely in response to the earlier holy war, that of the expansion of ‘Muslim lands’, which were not Muslim before being invaded. This is also true of the Ottoman Empire. Though this was mix of religion and good old imperialism (good of Ms Misra to remind us that it is not only ‘white folk’ who have such instincts), as the main aim, as highlighted in the recent TV series about it, was the capture of Christian Constantinople in order to turn it ‘Muslim’!

      I think that there is enough evidence to maintain the religious impetus within these conflicts at least.

      The Arab-Israeli conflict is also a bit of a give away, something in the title perhaps? It only became a war about a country when the Jews’ one was created. As it stands, it is all of the Arabs (regardless of ‘nation’ against those in Israel as the primary target. truth is though that the war is in fact still a war by the Muslims against the Jews, as the main protagonists on the Arab-Muslim side keep on telling, they want them all dead, not just in Israel, and not just until Israel ceases to be a country in it’s own right.

      • JonBW

        The Crusades were a product of demographic and economic growth in Western Europe; essentially an extension of the Roman Empire’s attempts to conquer the same lands. Religion was an ideological justification. But without it the conflict would still have occurred.

        Yes, the name ‘Arab-Israeli’ is a give away: it’s been a conflict primarily between secular nationalisms, not Islam and Judaism, which coexisted for centuries before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

        Most of the most belligerent protagonists on the Arab side (Nasser, the PLO, the Ba’athists) have been secular, and usually quasi-socialist, movements. Much of ‘Fundamentalist Judaism’ (Orthodoxy) tends to regard the creation of the State of Israel as a blasphemy.

        • global city

          You raise points that are relevant and interesting, particularly the point that most of the thug regimes in the Middle East are quasi-Socialist.

          We will have to settle on the fact that the religious lunacy that drives hatred of the Jew underpins all subsequent nationalist and state on state aggression in the Middle East?

          • JonBW

            Fair enough; my point is that it’s not hatred of Judaism as a faith but of the Jewish nation-state.

  • AnonymousKebleStudent

    I’m a Keble student of history. These comments are insulting,
    ill-informed and ignorant. My suggestions, stop consoling yourselves with this
    rag, challenge your assumptions and read widely. Think outside the blue box, I
    dare you. Most academics do, that’s how they became academics – they think,
    they research, they write. Alas, I doubt you will.

    • Simon

      When the cliched banalities have been removed from your post, there’s not much left really is there? How about telling the other commenters why they are so ignorant?

      • NinePillocksInARoom

        But people have written the likes of “well, I haven’t read what she says, but she’s obviously a closed-minded idiot”. That sort of invites AKS’s comments, no?

        • Simon

          Ms Misra appears to conform to a type that all too many of us are too familiar with. Her reaction to her views being challenged and AKS’s reaction as well are all too familiar, the accusations of being ignorant without any justification at all as to why we are so. Its the completely unjustified arrogance of these types that really piss people off.

          • NinePillocksInARoom

            Sure, I’m all for bashing metro-libs, at least some of the time. But part of their whole fun is in painting their opponents as red-necked idiots, so us conservatives have to be quite careful about how we attack metro-lib platitudes. It’s not fair that, say, a pro-abortionist can mouth around as much as they like whilst anti-abortionists have to measure everything we say carefully. Sure. It’s a rubbish situation.

            • Petra Thompson

              “CiF get away with it and we don’t. ”

              Compare the circulation of The Telegraph with The Guardian. The latter is dying, on life support from Auto-Trader. The Guardian avails itself of tax loopholes, whilst bitching about those who avail themselves of tax loopholes.

              • NinePillocksInARoom

                But trillions of US liberals read the Guardian online – it’s only with paying customers that it’s suffering …

                • Petra Thompson

                  Trillions? I guess maths is not your strong subject.

                  There is no doubt a direct correlation with The Guardian’s massive move to CIF/jew-hatred, and the need to get eyeballs.

                  Website metrics for the US show that The Telegraph online has got about 70% more American readers than The Guardian has. So even all The Guardian’s jew-hatred/islamo-fascist love doesn’t do it much good.

                • NinePillocksInARoom

                  Oh, for heavens sake, I’m just mucking about, which is always recommended on these boards – taking oneself too seriously just lays the way open to get wound up too much.

                  But my point is that in a sort of a way, Guardian/CIF is doing pretty well, thank you. And people in positions of responsibility do read it without any of the furrowing of eyebrows, narrowing of pupils and flaring of nostrils that they associate with publications such as the Spectator, Mail and the Torygraph Blogs.

                  Apart from that, I agree with you. I have read one Mail, Telegraph and Independent article each which could be described as “fascist” in the classical, 1930s blackshirt meaning. With CIF it is approximately one a week – it’s an extraordinarily aggressive far-right outlet.

                • Petra Thompson


                  I think The Guardian’s business model is disgusting. I’ve met the kind of jew-hating Lefties who read The Guardian. They are scum. Even when they have been confronted with their muslim allies openly stating that if they had the chance they would eat the bodies of dead jewish children whom they’d killed, the Guardianistas just had a grim smile on their faces.

    • NinePillocksInARoom

      “These comments are insulting, ill-informed and ignorant”.

      Agree strongly, yet there is such thing as academic lemmings falling off a cliff together. Every academic worth their salt thinks Malthus was an idiot who has been disproven, but surely it’s simple biology that animals who exhaust their environment die off in large numbers. If human ingenuity does meet its limits in this regard, it will go against approximately 100% of academic opinion, but you can bet your bottom dollar that more than 0% of academics will claim that they always knew Malthus was right.

      Similarly, you just try going into Keble SCR, or any other comparable situation and challenge more than one of the usual metro-lib opinions at a time. Perhaps put an anti-immigrant point of view forward. Or suggest that society should still be guided by Christ. Or say that abortion should be restricted. You will be listened to politely, perhaps even interacted with, and then for the rest of your degree you will be the guy who agrees with the Mail. Not exactly an outcast, but certainly not mainstream. You might even be liked as a kind of circus freak. Really. Try it.

    • Adrian Wainer

      ” I’m a Keble student of history. These comments are insulting,ill-informed and ignorant. My suggestions, stop consoling yourselves with this rag, challenge your assumptions and read widely. Think outside the blue box, I dare you. Most academics do, that’s how they became academics – they think, they research, they write. Alas, I doubt you will. “,.

      Go and F8ck off.

    • Pootles

      Actually, old fruit, Dr Misra has published very little indeed given that she has been at Keble since at least 1996. Elsewhere on this thread you will see that I wondered why Oxford couldn’t have been trawled for a much more potent academic, and suggested John Darwin at Nuffield – And as for insulting, Dr Misra sounded pretty insulting to me, speaking as an Oxford graduate m’self.

    • Petra Thompson

      “Most academics do, that’s how they became academics – they think,they research, they write. ”

      Most academics become what they are through jumping through hoops. If the population knew that PhD candidates play a part in choosing their examiners, and that doctoral supervisors only select candidates who agree with them, the public would see what a Ponzi scheme the whole thing is.

      • global city

        Academics, by definition, are experts in the minutiae of an aspect of some subject or other.

        Very few are widely read beyond their core area of research and most form opinions in cliched ways about the rest of the world they have no time to study.

    • grammarschoolman

      Well, I’m a Keble alumnus, and you’re no advert for ‘thinking outside the box’ yourself. I am saddened to see how far the college has fallen since the days when it employed proper History dons, and educated its undergraduates to do more than sling mud.

  • Fasdunkle

    There is good money to be made in academia if you spend your career explaining how the elephant in your room isn’t really there

  • Petra Thompson

    Have a look and see if Keble College receives funding from the Gulf states.

  • Mike

    Quite obviously this woman is a deranged left wing sociopath who is clueless and a denier of the truth.

    Virtually all modern day conflicts have religion and major culture differences at their core rather than language differences. Even in the past, the war of independence for America against the UK as with most wars of independence, have different groups speaking the same language going to war to gain the right of self determination. Of course the current spate of Islamic internecine slaughter has a common language among the antagonists but a toxic mix of religious and culture differences that are fueling the flames. Whilst apologists like Ms. Misra refuse to accept this there’s little hope for the people caught up in these killings.

    Religion spawns many different cultures, some good, some evil and some that change over time but Islam is currently in its ‘evil’ phase just as Christianity was in the middle ages. Its Islam that has failed to stop its abstract teachings being subverted into global terrorism and Islamic civil wars as demonstrated at various levels in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Mali, Sudan and numerous other Islamic states.

    Religion determines culture and its culture clashes that cause wars not language differences. I doubt Ms. Misra would accept this as she’ll deny everything that doesn’t agree with her mantra.

    • NinePillocksInARoom

      “Quite obviously this woman is a deranged left wing sociopath who is clueless and a denier of the truth”
      Erm, but this is exactly the behaviour that Murray criticises in his article (viz. “she seemed annoyed at even having to consider Huntington’s work”).

  • Austin Barry

    How as an academic with a focus on Indian politics, can she possibly ascribe the historic Muslim -v- Hindu (and just about everyone else) conflict to language?

    Reading her Guardian articles I think we know we know why: it’s all the fault of those rascally English speakers, the British.

    • Petra Thompson

      She should just leave Britain.

    • Jambo25

      Hindi and Urdu are essentially he same language which in colloquial forms can be fairly easily understood by both Hindi and Urdu native speakers. ‘Bollywood’ films, for example, have a large audience in Pakistan as well as India. It’s only in very ‘high end’ forms that the vary greatly.

      The big differential between India and Pakistan is religion.

      • NinePillocksInARoom

        Nobody really disputes that, but what % of Indians and Pakistanis actually speak it? The North-West Frontier Taliban types don’t, and I think southern Indians go out of their way not to despite the efforts of New Delhi …

        • Jambo25

          Urdu and Hindi are along with English the official languages of Pakistan and India. It is the language of popular entertainment and is spoken by hundreds of millions of people. The people of the Tribal Areas clearly speak Pashtun and other non Urdu languages. It’s also clear that the Dravidian areas of South India tend not to speak Hindi. However the vast bulk of the North Indian and Pakistani population do speak Hindi and Urdu.

          • NinePillocksInARoom

            Yes, but if you look where the trouble is, Pashtuns, Gujuratis, Punjabis, Kashmiris and Bengalis figure quite highly. Also there are more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan …

    • NinePillocksInARoom

      But India has suffered major linguistic conflicts over the last century (e.g. what state Bombay was going to end up in). And Egyptian Copts have the Coptic language, which I think literally means Egyptian, as opposed to Arabic which is an import. And Syrian Christians have Aramaic, again as opposed to Arabic. Iranians speak Persian, and actually removed all the Arabic words from their language in order to differentiate themselves. The Jews that have got kicked out of various “Muslim” countries had Yiddish and Hebrew. The Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians had their own language, as do the Kurds.

      So she might be going a bit OTT on the language idea, but it’s not obviously wrong, surely?

  • laurence

    What repels me most about Ms Misra is that she rails against cultural homogeneity both here and doubtless in print, but will be, like 99% of her colleagues, a Guardian reading, left-leaning, West-hating academic who will countenance no epistemology that does not agree with the officially sanctioned liberal-left discourse that these days counts for academic thought. Her mind is closed; shut tighter than a Mallard’s bot-bot.

    • NinePillocksInARoom

      Sorry, I’m basically on Murray’s side, but have you actually read her stuff, and if not, how can you talk about closed minds?

      • laurence

        My point, sir, was not about her ‘work’ but about her hectoring performance in the audio above and that such a performance was indicative of a certain academic type. Ms Misra somewhat insultingly insinuates that Mr Murray’s argument lacks evidence and logic, implying thereby that her argument does. Now, if we take her model of logic to be Aristotelian, then what she is asking for are premises and an appropriately derived conclusion. Her claim that what we poor benighted mortals foolishly assume to be conflicts of culture or conflicts of religion are in fact conflicts of language is offered without so much as a whiff of evidence: in other words a conclusion without premises; without reasons. That is, in short, an assertion; an opinion with little epistemic weight. Now she might offer this evidence in her ‘work’ but as Schopenhauer once said when asked if he had read some minor author, a man journeying between capitals does not have time to stop off in every provincial town along the way. She certainly offers no evidence here. I have no interest whatsoever in Indian linguistic conflicts so I would make no claims about same, but Ms Misra ought not to accuse others of lacking argumentative rigour when, here, she does not exhibit this rigour herself. Her deployment of an academic syntax gives her sentences some linguistic sophistication but little else.

        • NinePillocksInARoom

          Surely evidence is for footnotes and radio appearances are for political bitching? I’m as exasperated by lib-left orthodoxy as you, but I’m just not sure that the right answer is to ape them and to disregard anything she says just because she’s “a Guardian reading, left-leaning, West-hating academic”. Oh, and by the way, I agree with you about the Grauniad, much more offensive than the Mail.

  • zanzamander

    You scratch the surface and you’ll find little Misras beavering away in all, yes all, Western universities, promoting Islam. A kind of soft jihad would be a better world for it. Yes, Douglas, you’ve just been a victim of one.

    The Western world is living a through a self denial. Islam is at war with the non-Islamic world, always has been, from day one – but saying this will only result in incurring more wrath. There is a clash of civilisation taking place now, bit only one side is fighting the other one has all but given up.

    Why should an academic appear so impatient at having to discuss what is
    at the very least an interesting and highly influential thesis by a
    deceased author?
    Reading this reminded me of Boris Johnson’s interview on PM on Radio 4 yesterday. Mr Johnson thinks Britain can easily accommodate another 20-30 million people. Guess he has never heard Thomas Malthus. Wait till his prediction hits the fan.

    • rtj1211

      Christianity was at war with the world until 1945, still is if you count the American neo-cons.

      Islam is still only 1300 years old.

      Why should it be different to Christianity??

      • Pootles

        Because the global context that Islam operates in, in its 14th century, is a lot different from the global context Christianity operated in during its 14th century.

        • Petra Thompson

          Christians in 1400 AD had already been subjected to 700 years of jihad. Spain/Portugal had been under occupation for 700 years.

          The first 200 years of christianity should be compared with the first 200 years of islam. That shows what the religions are fundamentally like.

          • Pootles

            Yes, indeed. I suppose the key ideological (theological) difference is encapsulated in the life of Christ vs the life of old pbuh. Vile Christian behaviour is in direct contradiction to the life and teachings of Christ – not so when one considers the life & teaching of Mo.

      • Petra Thompson

        You’ve made this point on other threads. And the answer’s the same. Islam is a religion of war. Mohammed is quoted, in the most reliable of sources, as saying “I was made victorious through terror”. Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasoul Allah” was known for hundreds of years as “The Book of Wars”.

        If you can’t see that that is a world away from the Sermon on the Mount you are criminally insane. Perhaps you should apply to Keble College for a Fellowship?

      • Will Kettel

        We don’t have several centuries for Islam to get up to speed, we have some decades, at best. The idea that we need to afford Islam time to modernise and reform is utterly frivolous. The reform has already happened and fundamentalism and greater religiosity appear to have prevailed. Just compare the appearance of Cairo in the 50’s to today.

      • disqus_KdiRmsUO4U

        Adding to other responses: we are not discussing Christianity up to 1945 we are discussing, and in my case afraid of, the rise of Islam in the UK/Europe.

        Re reform: isn’t hard line Wahabi the Islamic equivalent of John Major’s ‘back to basics’ hehehe

  • Pootles

    Well, they just picked the wrong Oxford academic – a much, much better choice might have been John Darwen from Nuffield College. He is a real heavyweight, well worth reading – and he’s written some damn good stuff.

  • Keith D

    This woman has appeared in print for the Guardian and Independent.The blind preaching to the blind.How depressing that a much respected College has its history students subject to indoctrination by someone so detached from the realities they’ll no doubt face in the future.

    Its funny,given Ms Misra’s rant,how people in China or North America for example,with different languages,can co-exist without resorting to terrorism,rapes or beheadings.

    I suspect that Ms Misra’s internal dialogue is desperately trying to cling to the outdated leftist notion that all religions have a moral equivalency.How then can religion be responsible for the clashes of civilisations all too apparent today?

    Of course,when we speak of the common denominator in these clashes,Islam,civilisation is about as inappropriate a term as you could muster.Your protagonist appears to have missed the point that whether its Christians in the ME,Buddhists in Burma or Hindus in India,the clash is instigated by the one cult at permanent war with the human condition.Islam.

    • manonthebus

      Religions have one thing in common, at least. All of them are administered by officials who act as both interpreter of what ‘their God’ wants’ and ‘judge and jury’ over those who depart from the prescribed belief. I think it likely that Buddhism is less prone to this aberration than other religions, but it is there, nevertheless. This control by clerics has led to great strife (to say the least). The world would be better off without any religion, IMHO. People can still have their individual faith. It’s when they all get together and call it a religion that the trouble starts.

    • rtj1211

      Plenty of leading Conservative Politicians have appeared in print in the Guardian and the Independent, you know. David Cameron, Michael Gove, Philip Hammond, to mention but three.

      What you mean is that you are still too immature to realise that your mindset is one of many equally valid ones. You are still pre-adolescent with the need ‘to be right’, ‘to be better’ and ‘to taunt the other lot’.

      If your education had been of an appropriate standard, you would have left that behind by the age of 15.

      • Keith D

        Oh do tell,my sarcastic but limited correspondent.Isn’t irony delicious?

        However,as someone of intelligence may attempt to advise you dear,many articles have been penned in these very pages by Labour MP’s and socialist journalists of varying conviction.The publication of those articles does not confer upon the author honorary membership of the right.They are entitled to attempt to influence the right in proper debate on here.As I’m sure the Tories have done in the Guardian.

        In short,a childish point littered with ad hominem,poorly made,and please,do grow up.

  • John Lea

    Without knowing her I would say she encapsulates everything that’s wrong with modern academia, especially the arts and social sciences. A complete absence of common sense; obsessed with semantics, deconstruction and left-wing critical theory, especially the European variety; and, on a personal level, overbearing, self-righteous and politically correct – which is, I suppose, just another way of saying she has a closed mind, albeit an academic one, which is intolerant and dismissive of any idea which does not conform to her left-wing worldview.

    • Jambo25

      I was going to write something along these lines myself but you have saved me the trouble. She rather reminded me of the Marxist lecturers I had at university in the early 70s. Coming up with more and more obscure language and abstruse arguments to hide the bloody obvious: that their favoured ideology was ‘a crock’ as our US cousins say.

    • Curnonsky

      Academics rarely admit to being devoutly religious themselves, or even speak the name of their faith: Marxism.

  • venyanamore

    It’s also untrue that there is no religious aspect to the differences (conflict is rather too strong a term) between Eastern and Western Ukraine: there very clearly is. In the late 1980s the then Patriarch of Moscow referred to the prevalence of (mostly Byzantine rite) Catholicism in Western Ukraine as ” a bomb placed under the Soviet Union”. So even the instances she cites are rubbish.

    • Pootles

      I’m not sure whether conflict is too strong a word for the Ukrainian example. During the Second World War, it was the western Ukraine that provided tens and tens of thousands of soldiers and auxiliaries for the Germans – almost all volunteers, and many coming forward in 1944. By contrast, eastern Ukraine was much more loyalist – for the USSR. That pro/anti Russia dividion is still apparent in the differing parts of Ukraine today.

      • Jambo25

        I think it may have had far more to do with the Holodomor or Great Ukrainian Famine of the early-mid 30s and which areas were targeted for mass deaths through hunger by Stalin and his henchmen.

        • Pootles

          Yes, quite. I was just adding in that the fractures in Ukraine are deep.

          • Jambo25

            I entirely accept that. There are several cultural, linguistic and religious fractures in the Ukraine. In many ways we would be better to think of Ukraine, particularly the western part as being a remnant of old Ruthenia.

    • Jambo25

      This goes back, as Norman Davies, noted to the takeover of Ruthenia by Moscow and the rise of a peculiarly millenarian, caesaro-papist ideology which underpinned the Tsarist claim to be Autocrat of all the Slavs. Western Ukraine was able to escape this on the partitions of Poland by becoming an Austrian, Habsburg possession.