By Ronald Brown
What better vantage point to view the chaos convulsing the Muslim world than from atop the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai.
The 163-story tall skyscraper stands in the very center of the Muslim world, almost equidistant between Morocco and Indonesia and the Republic of Kazan in Russia and Empire of Sokoto in Nigeria. For my annual January academic vacation, I decided to settle into the glistening desert city of Dubai and take a Muslim view of the world as Muslims must see it.
As I glanced in all directions from atop the tower, I became acutely aware of Samuel P. Huntington’s argument in his paradigm-shattering book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996). He argued that the nation-state system that has dominated the world since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was rapidly ending. Nine vast religion-based civilizations will dominate the 21st century. The Confucian, Hindu, Orthodox Christian, Western Christian, and Buddhist civilizations were rapidly reclaiming their former greatness, with Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Japan still finding their ways.
The Muslim world, on the other hand, which has no natural boundaries and abuts many of the other emerging civilizations, is convulsed with revolutions, foreign invasions, terrorism, and occupations. It is still struggling to throw off centuries of French, British, Russian, Chinese, and most recently, American colonial rule or influence, amid clashing visions of what form a restored Islamic civilization will take.
But my view of the Muslim world from the Burj Khalifa convinced me Muslims are intent on restoring their lost political and religious unity under the rule of a caliph that the Prophet Mohammed founded.
Huntington recognized that the emerging global actors of the 21st century will be 1) civilizations, and 2) they will be fueled by religious passion. The Hindu-based Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is propelling the rise of India, Confucianism inspires the rise of China, evangelical Christianity drives the revival of Western Civilization, and militant Islam fuels the Muslim quest to become a major world power. India has even gone so far as to erect statues and temples dedicated to Bharat Mata, the Mother India Goddess, which I pondered during a recent visit to India.
Although a Harvard political scientist, professor Huntington recognized that the determining characteristic of 21st century religions will be their this-worldly orientation. No longer willing to wait for heavenly bliss after death, contemporary religions have embarked on establishing paradise on earth.