By Thomas Sowell
Presents new insights into the historical past, sociology, and psychology of ethnic-minority lifestyles.
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While Huntington argues that Islam is militant and aggressive because it has historically expanded its reach by military 38 Hugh Gusterson conquest, Geertz points out that Islam was brought to Morocco by the sword but to Indonesia in the baggage of traders. “To say that Morocco and Indonesia are both Islamic societies,” Geertz says, “is as much to point up their differences as it is to locate their similarities” (pp. 13–14). Indonesian Islam has been, at least until recently, remarkably malleable, tentative, syncretistic, and, most significantly of all, multivoiced.
No other civilization has generated a significant political ideology” (pp. 53–54). This is an extraordinarily ethnocentric statement. What about Maoism, Gandhianism, and Nasserism? The first two were important not only in the Asian societies where they took shape but also, through cultural diffusion, in Western society. Martin Luther King and the civil rights activists of the 1960s, for example, were deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. Maintaining that the only important political ideologies have been Western requires one to believe that only Western political ideologies have been important.
First Deadly Sin: Basic Definitions Huntington’s argument rests on the premise that there are distinct civilizational zones that have been relatively culturally homogeneous and stable over centuries. ”4 Most contemporary anthropologists would find Huntington’s assumption deeply problematic, as I explain below, but for the moment let it suffice to point out the terrible empirical mess it creates for Huntington when he actually has to draw the line between civilizations. Take this tendentious passage in which he demarcates the boundary between the Western world and its neighbors, alluding to “the great historical line that has existed for centuries separating Western Christian peoples from Muslim and Orthodox peoples.