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By Farooq Sulehria

Fundamentalists in different parts of the world have a kind of relationship that Khalil Gibran's Father Samaan has got with Satan. Father Samaan was in constant war with Satan. One evening, he saw an unclothed dying man. Father Samaan came close to the man and saw a strange face with contrasting features: intelligence with slyness, ugliness with beauty, and wickedness with softness. He withdrew to his feet sharply and exclaimed, "Who are you?"

"I am Satan", comes the reply.

Father screams: "God has shown me your hellish image and justly caused me to hate you; cursed be you forever more!"

Satan tells Father, "Be not in haste" and explains:" Do you not realise that you will starve to death if I were to die? What would you do tomorrow if you allowed me to die today? What vocation would you pursue if my name disappeared? For decades you have been roaming these villages and warning the people against falling into my hands. They have bought your advice with their poor denars and with the products of their land. What would they buy from you tomorrow, if they discovered that their wicked enemy no longer existed?...."

Father Samaan quietly walks to the village with his back bent under Satan's heavy burden, his lips moving in fervent prayer for the life of the dying Satan.

The fresh clash of fundamentalisms we are currently witnessing, this time initiated by Jyllands-Posten, is yet another manifestation of Father Samaan and Satan episode. Editors at Jyllands-Posten try to test the tolerance of a religious minority in Denmark. Their Nigerian counterparts in turn killed members of a religious minority. An Italian Father Samaan asserts freedom of expression by wearing a T-shirt and his Libyan counterparts express theirs by setting an Italian embassy ablaze. Satan (perhaps Father Samaan) blows up the twin towers and Father Samaan (Satan for others) destroys Iraq and Afghanistan. Satanic Likud leads to the victory of Father Hamas. Sangh Parivar wants Akhand Bharat and razed the historic Babri mosque. The Jamaat-e-Islami reciprocates by vowing to hoist a green crescent at Delhi's Red Fort and Islamic zealots raze Lahore's Jain Mandir without bothering to find out it was not a Hindu temple. By the way, Buddha statues at Bamiyan were not demolished by anyone according to Iranian film maker Makhmalbaf. Buddha fell down out of shame, he thinks.

Danish Prime Minister (a Satan you bet it) thinks 'caricatures now an issue between EU and Muslim world' (The News, Feb 23). Father Qazi Hussain Ahmad sees the drawings as 'part of clash of civilisations'. (The News, Feb 22). Is it? If so, how would Danish Satan and Pakistani Father explain February 14 and 15? While Copenhagen witnessed the biggest anti-war rally on February 15, Father Qazi did not send any zealots to burn vehicles on The Mall.

Since the start of Iraq war, March 20 is marked by mass mobilisations in Europe while MMA has yet to plan a Million March on Iraq. Clash of civilisations? Ironically, while the working class in the West had erupted in protest against the Iraq war, Father Khomeini tactically cooperated with Big Satan to get rid of little Satan (Sadam Hussain). Clash of civilisations or connivance of fundamentalisms?

In his widely cited but less read Clash of Civilisations, Samuel Huntington sees two satanic civilisations clashing with Father (Western) Civilisation: Chinese (exports) and Muslim (oil) civilisations. If Arabs sitting over oil reserves were Buddhists, Jyllands-Posten would have caricatured Mahatma Buddha. So much for the clash of civilisations.

The clash-of-civilisation nonsense preceded by end-of-history euphoria indeed was an attempt to justify the super exploitation, including direct invasions, of the Muslim world in the post-Cold war period. With the collapse of Stalinism in the former Soviet world, the sole Empire left at the end of 20th century felt like imposing its new world order at gun point, if needed, since there was no challenger left. Meantime, the traditional parties of the working class (social democrats, communists in Europe and populists in the third world), notwithstanding the end-of-history euphoria took a right turn.

It created a political vacuum. A vacuum, in politics, never lasts long. It was filled by extreme ideas. In Europe, largely far right (Jorge Haider, Le Pen & Co.) and to some extent far left (French LCR, Scottish SSP, now the British Respect, Danish Red Green Alliance) filled the vacuum. India witnessed the rise of the Sangh Parivar.

In the Muslim world, imperialism's estranged child Muslim fundamentalism, as a far right phenomenon, came forward since it had all the resources and internationally conducive objective situation.

Latin America is an entirely different story. Interestingly, today Latin America shows the way. The day the Muslim world gets its Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales, the clash of civilisation is doomed. Father Samaan will not be able to save Satan's life by moving his lips in fervent prayers.

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