The Clash of Civilizations

During the Cold War, there was a great clash of civilizations—communism vs. Western liberal democracy. And it threatened to destroy us in a nuclear holocaust. I was in the White House during those years. I can tell you, it was terrifying getting those daily briefings from the military. But the danger that we face from radical Islam today is even greater than the Cold War. In the mid-1990s Harvard professor Samuel Huntington predicted that the twenty-first century would see a great clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. Nobody paid much attention. After all, we had just defeated communism. There was peace in the world. All was well. Then came September 11, when we awoke to the fact that there are people out there who want to destroy us—not just defeat us, but annihilate us. Why? There has been a lot of hand-wringing in the West about why they hate us. “Maybe if we just got out of the Middle East,” some say, “or elected a new government, or abandoned the war on terror, maybe they would change their minds.” Well, what the pundits don’t realize is that this is a clash of civilizations. Armies of suicide bombers ought to tell us that their worldview matters more to them than life itself. The hard truth is that members of Islam’s radical branches have no interest in coming to terms with non-Muslims, or even moderate Muslims. To put it bluntly, they don’t care whether we’re nice or not. To this breed of radical Muslim, there are only two options: convert or die. Does that sound drastic? Sure. But it’s a fact. The history of Islamic hostility toward the West goes back centuries. Radical Muslims are still smarting over the defeat of their armies south of Paris in the year 732, not to mention the catastrophic defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the gates of Vienna on September 11, 1683. That’s right, September 11. Bin Laden chose his date for a reason. He was avenging the defeat of Muslim armies more than four hundred years earlier. September 11 has roots in an irrational hatred of the West. There was a brilliant but paranoid Egyptian writer by the name of Sayyid Qutb, imprisoned in Egypt in 1956. In 1970, he published a book, In the Shade of the Koran, attacking the West as totally corrupt. Qutb knew what he was talking about. He lived in the United States for a time and saw our decadence. He also read Western philosophers like Heidegger and Derrida and other intellectuals who hated the West. And he read all the anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic literature. Qutb’s In the Shade of the Koran unequivocally advocates the killing of “infidels.” He was executed by the Egyptian government, but his brother, Muhammad Qutb, escaped Egypt, went to Saudi Arabia, and became a professor at the university. One of his star pupils was none other than Osama bin Laden. Don’t tell me worldviews don’t matter. This same worldview now influences millions of radical Muslims—up to 10 percent, according to some accounts, 100 million. What we’re seeing in the Middle East today are not isolated acts of terrorism, but a widespread, well-organized, hatred-fueled movement. Now, politicians don’t like to say politically incorrect things like this, but it’s true. We in the West had better understand that we are in a life-and-death struggle with a worldview that wants to destroy us. To see anything else would be tragically blind.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary