The French PM, Manuel Valls, recently affirmed that the war against terrorism is 'une guerre de civilisation' (a war of civilisation). This affirmation caused considerable controversy, even in the socialist camp. Nevertheless, it raises interesting questions and obvious paradoxes.
The actions of those who regard themselves as jihadists, who freely interpret seventh century Koranic verses and impose sharia laws, can hardly be considered civilised. Civilisation is, or should be, in constant evolution, not only in function with technological progress, but in function with the evolution of thought itself.
The obvious paradox in the case of Islamic extremists, is that although they reject modern democracy, they have never rejected the technological progress determined by this freedom. Their war would have been stillborn had they deprived themselves, according to any religious principle, of the use of modern weapons and digital technology.
Of course ancient Greek history is far more glorious than recent Greek history, which makes today's Greek tragedy all the more dramatic. Yet in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, if Persia was the only possible choice as to where to go to study all that was then known in the field of medical science, for example, it was thanks to the studies of the ancient Greeks whose medical works were first translated into Arabic.
Isn't this also an example of making good use of a science developed by another civilisation? Certainly when it was apparent that for religious reasons medical science even in ancient Persia could not be developed further than a fixed level. Due to the imposition of Islamic law, the study and practice of anatomy was, and perhaps still is, prohibited. And this religious ideology was bound to continue to limit all forms of scientific and technological progress that determine civilisation as we know it.
Many philosophers would agree that when an ideology is established, the ideologue retires from thinking.
Imagine the state of the world if the New Testament was dismissed in favour of the old, bigoted, incoherent and intolerant Testament. The Old Testament virtually grants license to practice the worst crimes imaginable.
After years of religious exploitation that determined the tyranny of absolutism in Europe, the love and tolerance of Christianity according to the New Testament, was to finally bring about a general reconciliation, even though 'civilisation' also had to contend with two World Wars in the final process.
In France towards the end of the eighteenth century, absolutism was rejected so vehemently, that Catholicism was virtually decapitated with it. France today, especially when influenced by its special brand of socialism, still appears to have qualms about Catholicism based on the birth of the Republic from the bloodbath of the Revolution.
Sometimes the French seem to be just as interested in Royal Family affairs as the British, and can one not discern a degree of sadness, nostalgia and disillusionment that might also stem from the sacrifice of faith in favour of prosaic laicism that appears to have its own special pedestal or altar in France?
Democracy however, has to be based on laicism. This is also essential to modern civilisation.
So in conclusion, to where might all this lead us? Is French PM Valls right in suggesting that the war against terrorism is a war of civilisation? Yes, if we are to believe that the confrontation is between 'modern civilisation' and 'ancient civilisation'. But if we are to believe that those who perpetrate atrocities in the name of God, those who exploit religion to impose their terror and totalitarianism; then no. Such devil's disciples can never be considered civilised beings in any epoch of the entire history of mankind.
Text © Mirino. Images- screen shots from 'Cross' 11/9/2011 Youtube, with grateful thanks. July, 2015