Half Full or Half Empty?
The BBC asked people in eleven countries to ask whether they thought a conflict between the West and Islam was inevitable. Except for the respondents in Indonesia, there was no majority reporting a belief in the inevitability of conflict, but only in two countries did more than three quarters of the population think that peaceful coexistence was possible. The results raise some interesting questions. There is no explicit information on the trends of these poll numbers. For example, did 39% of Germans always believe that "violent conflict was inevitable" or was that number lower or higher in the recent past. My own guess was that the 31% of Americans who thought a clash was coming would probably have had no opinion towards Islam at all six years ago. Why does Indonesia, a country with a relatively tolerant strain of Islam, have such a high degree of belief in the inevitability of conflict when Lebanon, a country in which an actual civil war has been fought between religious confessions, report a much lower number?
I think the BBC is drawing entirely the wrong conclusion from its poll when
it says, "a new BBC poll taken by Globescan suggests there is a significant
middle ground which rejects the view that Islam and the West are doomed to
clash." That amounts to treating a potential disaster as if were normal,
simply because it is not yet total, equivalent to finding that since more than
half of the Titanic was still unflooded the passengers should go back to
But in any case the numbers in all countries are high enough to put the entire premise of multiculturalism to question. With nearly a quarter of Frenchmen believing some sort of clash of civilizations was inevitable, was it possible to blithely regurgitate the "we are the world" platitudes of the late 1990s any longer? The issue of Islam versus the West must now be explicitly addressed. It can no longer be banished from open debate. The poll shows there may still be time to head of the crisis, but there can be no doubt that the crisis exists.