Muslims all over the world have joined in an increasingly violent series of demonstrations protesting a set of cartoons that depict the prophet Mohammed. The cartoons, which originally appeared last September in a Danish newspaper, have recently been reprinted throughout Europe and elsewhere.
One explanation for the spread of the protests was offered by an unidentified government official in the United Arab Emirates: "You have no choice but to join the chorus. Anyone who doesn't speak up will look as if they tacitly accept the prophet to be insulted."
This situation brings to mind Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Huntington, arguing that conflict between Christians and Muslims has very deep roots, states that conflict is "a product of difference, particularly the Muslim concept of Islam as a way of life transcending and uniting religion and politics versus the Western Christian concept of the separate realms of God and Caesar" (210).
However offensive the cartoons may be, the Muslim world's reaction can't help but baffle most Westerners. Muslim anger and Western bafflement together lend support to the notion of a "clash of civilizations." And that, in turn, lends support to the forces of reaction on both sides.