“This idea of trying to reconcile Islam and the West is well intentioned, of course. But the premise is wrong.”—Olivier Roy and Justin Vaisse, New York Times
In yesterday’s New York Times, Olivier Roy and Justin Vaisse challenged the rhetoric and philosophy behind Obama’s efforts to improve relations with the Muslim world.
Olivier Roy, the author of Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah, The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East and other works, and Vaisse argue that by trying to “reconcile” Islam and the West, Obama is reinforcing notions of a “clash of civilizations.” The authors write, “Those who want to promote dialogue and peace between ‘civilizations’ or ‘cultures’ concede at least one crucial point to those who, like Osama bin Laden, promote a clash of civilizations: that separate civilizations do exist. They seek to reverse the polarity, replacing hostility with sympathy, but they are still following Osama bin Laden’s narrative.”
Roy and Vaisse argue that Obama also runs the risk of promoting the idea of a monolithic Muslim world, whose leaders can be easily convened as a way of improving relations with the Islamic world. Instead, Obama needs to become a “post-civilizational” president.
You can read the entire op-ed here and also watch a video of Olivier Roy from earlier this year discussing Islamic movements, the rise of fundamentalism, the failure of political Islam, and relations between the West and the Islamic world.