The uses and misuses of dialogue
Global Change, Peace and Security
183 - 188
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'Civilisation' as a tool of power has been a constant in world history since the 'discovery' of new worlds by Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British adventurers. 'Discovery' conferred ownership and 'civilisation' justified it. The classification of humans into descending categories of civilised, savages and barbarians was a form of moral stratification. Beginning as a neologism from its Latin roots, civilisation moved forward with 'western'1 explorers and armies wherever they set foot. The implicit message was not what we are doing to you but what we are doing for you. Inevitably, the invaded and colonised fought back and sometimes had the numbers to inflict significant defeats. In Muslim territories, because there was no nation, and displaced rulers who left behind no structure of government, Islam had to be the rallying point. In south-eastern Europe, and amongst the Christians of the Ottoman domains, it was identified as the central source of the problems they were experiencing under 'Muhammadan rule'. No wonder, then, at the high point of imperialism, in a deeply evangelistic age, that the Scottish orientalist Sir William Muir could write that 'the sword of Mahomet, and the Coran, are the most stubborn enemies of Civilisation, Liberty and Truth which the world has yet known'.2 Muir, Stanley Lane-Poole and Ignaz Goldziher were among the orientalists of the late nineteenth century who were the authorities for the scholars who dominated the field for much of the twentieth. The most influential of them, at least in Britain and the United States, were D.S. Margoliouth, H.A.R. (Hamilton) Gibb, Alfred Guillaume, A.J. Arberry, Bernard Lewis, Marshall Hodgson, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Elie Kedourie and Stanford Shaw. Of those named here, only Bernard Lewis (born in 1916) is still living, and, until very recently at least, still turning out one book after another. As a link not just between the scholarship of the late nineteenth century but its culture, it is not surprising that Lewis also hands civilisation to his readers as a means of understanding the problems of the Arab and Muslim worlds (but not of the problems of the 'west'). What is somewhat surprising is that nowhere in this book do any of the authors point out that the 'clash of civilisations' belongs not to Samuel P. Huntington but to Lewis. © 2012 Taylor & Francis.