In 1993, the influential conservative American political scientist Samuel Huntington (1927 –2008) provoked great debate among international relations theorists with

his article published in the Foreign Affairs magazine under the title “The Clash of Civilizations”. The article, which would later be improved into a book under a similar title, argued that post-Cold War conflict would most frequently and violently occur because of cultural rather than ideological differences. It argued that whilst in the Cold War conflict occurred between the Capitalist West and the Communist Bloc East, it now was most likely to occur between the world’s major civilizations — identifying seven, and a possible eighth as (i) Western, (ii) Latin American, (iii) Islamic, (iv) Sinic (Chinese), (v) Hindu, (vi) Orthodox, (vii) Japanese, and (viii) the African.

Huntington advised that to understand current and future conflict, cultural rifts must be understood, and culture — rather than the State — must be accepted as the locus of war. Thus, Western nations would lose predominance if they fail to recognize the irreconcilable nature of cultural tensions. Huntington argued that this post-Cold War shift in geopolitical organization and structure requires the West to internally strengthen itself culturally, by abandoning the imposition of its ideal of democratic universalism and its incessant military interventionism. “It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic.

The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural… The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future,” he said. But in putting across his ideas about clash of civilizations, Huntington also made
rather offensive statements such as the following. “Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.” The international community is today grappling with one major challenge— terrorism. But without mincing words, this terrorism is associated with Islam,  and underlying this terrorism is the spread of extremist religious narrative and radicalization. Could this be the clearest manifestation of Huntington’s clash of civilizations? If the answer is in the affirmative, where do we begin to find solutions? It is in view of the foregoing that the mid February 2015 Summit on Countering Violent Extremism held in Washington DC should be viewed. During the said summit, various community and religious leaders, government representatives, activists and security experts from over 60 countries converged on Washington DC to discuss ways of finding solutions to the worrying trend of radicalization and recruitment of youth into violent religious extremism.

President Barak Obama delivered the keynote address where he urged the international community to invest in efforts that would foster and promote harmonious coexistence between diverse people, especially between Muslims and other faiths, as a way of dealing with factors that feed into violent religious extremism. “We have to ensure that our diverse societies truly welcome and respect people of all faiths and backgrounds, and leaders set the tone on this issue… We’ve seen, most recently in Europe, a rise in inexcusable acts of anti-Semitism, or in some cases, anti-Muslim sentiment or anti-immigrant sentiment. When people spew hatred towards others -- because of their faith or because they’re immigrants -- it feeds into terrorist narratives. If entire communities feel they can never become a full part of the society in which they reside, it feeds a cycle of fear and resentment and a sense of injustice upon which extremists prey. And we can’t allow cycles of suspicions to tear at the fabric of our countries,” President Obama said.

In this regard, President Obama reiterated the need for more dialogues across countries and cultures, pointing out that violent extremists and terrorists thrive when people of different religions or sects pull away from each other and are able to isolate each other and label them as “they” as opposed to “us;” something separate and apart. Emphasizing the need for harmonious coexistence and demonstrating that people of different faiths can live together in a spirit of brotherhood and strive for peace together, President Obama noted as follows: “The world hears a lot about the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo in Paris, but the world has to also remember the Paris police officer, a Muslim, who died trying to stop them. The world knows about the attack on the Jews at the kosher supermarket in Paris; we need to recall the worker at that market, a Muslim, who hid Jewish customers and saved their lives. And when he was asked why he did it, he said, “We are brothers. It’s not a question of Jews or Christians or Muslims. We’re all in the same boat, and we have to help each other to get out of this crisis.”

But in the modern world in which terrorism is non-hesitantly blamed on violent religious extremism perpetrated by Muslims, the question is— how do we persuade people that Islam and Muslims truly stand for peace and harmonious coexistence? As Huntington correctly put it, there is a mistaken belief that Islamic culture and
values are diametrically opposed to the culture and values espoused by the West. But a correct analysis of Islamic history reveals that Islam and Muslims have made great contributions to the culture and values which the Western world espouses today. It is important to point out that Western culture and values have been greatly influenced by developments in science and technology— remove science and technology and Western culture and values collapse into a heap of savagery and barbarism. But it is also important to point out that Islam and Muslims have made great contributions to scientific advancements. Science progressed at an impressive pace in the Muslim world during the Islamic golden age i.e. from 8th to 12th century.

Not only voluminous and insightful books were composed on various scientific disciplines but new inventions and ground breaking discoveries were made. Of the
various medical disciplines, most of the contributions were made by medical practitioners in the field of ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye including the eye, brain, and areas surrounding the eye, such as the lacrimal system and eyelids.

Kahhal from the word Kuhl (kollyre). Renowned Muslim scholars like Zakariya al-Razi, Ibn Sena, al-Haytham, al-Zahrawi, Ibn Zuhr, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Nafis made significant contributions in this field. Books authored by Al-Razi, Ibn Sena, & al-Zahrawai were used as medical text books in European universities for centuries.
In the main hall of the Paris University’s Faculty of Medicine, there hang portraits of al-Razi and Ibn Sena as a tribute to these two giants of medicine. On the stained glass window pane of a church in Princeton University, al-Razi portrait is painted as acknowledgment to his skill and immense benefits of his skill and knowledge to humanity.

The way science is divided these days into various branches, this was not the case during the middle ages. To become a practitioner there was no fixed path. All one had to do was study medical books and get training under a seasoned physician. To become an ophthalmologist a license was required granted by Hakim-bashi, royal physician to the Caliph. Before 931 there was no medical certification, when Caliph al- Muqtadir asked Sinan ibn Sabit to examine and approve physicians. Ophthalmologists hence had to satisfy the examiner that they knew the principal diseases of the eye as well as their intricate complications, and were able to properly prepare collyria and ophthalmic ointments. Moreover they had to assert under oath not to allow unauthorized persons access to any surgical instruments, such as the lancet that was used for cases of pannus and pterygium, or the curette used for cases of trachoma. Muslim physicians-oculists made astonishing contributions and discoveries in eye diseases and cures. It was a Muslim scholar who produced anatomy of the eye for the first time. The Latin word “retina” is derived from Avicenna’s Arabic term for the organ. The “injection syringe”, a hollow needle, was invented by Ammar ibn Ali of Mosul, Iraq. Al Mosuli attempted the earliest extraction of cataracts using suction. Eye conditions such as pannus, glaucoma (described as ‘headache of the pupil’), phlyctenulae and operations on the conjunctiva were described by Muslim physicians. Ibn Rushd (1198) was the first to attribute photoreceptor properties to the retina. Arabic terms such as Eyeball, Conjunctiva, Cornea, Uvea and Retina were introduced by Muslims. Muslims also did operations on diseases of the lids such as trachoma, a hardening of the inside of the lid. Glaucoma (an increase in the intra-ocular pressure of the eye) under the name of “Headache of the pupil” was first described
by a Muslim.

Muslim physicians made significant contributions in ophthalmology: Yuhanna ibn Masawayh, al-Tabari, Ali ibn Abbas al- Majusi (994), a-Zahrawi (1013) Ammar bin Ali al-Mosuli, Hunayn ibn Ishaq (a Christian), Ali ibn Isa, al-Razi, Ibn Sena, Ibn al-Haytham (1039) Abu Abdulla al-Tamini, Adnan al-aynzarbi (12th century), al-Ghafiqi, Ibn Rushd, Khalifa abi al-Mahasin, Fatah al-Din al-Qaysi, Ibn al-Quff al-Karki, ibn Nafis, Daud al-Antaki (1599), Ibrahim al-Hanafi, Abd al- Qadir al-Khulasi al-Dimishqi, Ahmad Hassan al-Rashidi (1840). Translations of more than 400 Arab authors, writing on such varied topics as ophthalmology, surgery, pharmaceuticals, child care and public health, deeply influenced the rebirth of European science. Works of the Muslim ophthalmologists were translated into Latin and became the foundation of the ophthalmology in Europe, with many Arabic texts used well into the nineteenth century. In this regard, if Islam and Muslims made such great contributions to science and medicine which define Western culture and values, why would some people insist that Islam and Muslims are diametrically opposed to Western culture and values?

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