As an Afghan refugee living in Iran for 23 years, I was very like all other Afghan refugees to the eyes of Iranians. Our appearance, our culture, our manner, everything, we were believed to be the same. Of course, we were not the same, but it did not matter. At once, an Afghan in one corner of Iran committed a crime, all Afghans were condemned. “These people are all thieves and cultureless” was not an unfamiliar statement to me. Eight years ago, I returned to my own homeland. Here, we are all Afghans, but apparently, very different. However, we seem to be alike within our own ethnicity, to the eyes of the other ethnicities. And, we are treated as if we are one and think the same.
As Edward Saeed points out, there is no single Islamic culture, nor one Western culture. There are great differences between the Islam practiced in Iran and the one practiced in Saudi Arabia, and the one in Syrian, and so forth. Similarly, the democracy in France is very different that of the United States, and the one of the United Kingdom or Germany. A clash of civilizations can’t exist between for example Islam and the West because Islam is not one single country or ideology to have a clash with the West, which is neither a single ideology. But, this is not what we have seen. I lived the first 23 years of my life in a country where the chant of “death to Israel” was the music of every public gathering. Imagining now that most of Iranians think Israel is just one single person like Netanyahu should not be impossible. I guess this less or more what people in western countries think about Muslims: “Someone wearing turban, with long black beard, with fists shaking in the air, violently threatening, burning the flag of America…” You don’t agree with me? See the cartoons! It’s not true, but who cares!
No, I don’t agree with Edward Saeed. Whatever it is called, “self-fulfilling prophecy”, stereotypes, etc. they affect our perspectives, our opinions, our behaviors, or how we are behaved, so they exist. However, should there be necessarily a violent clash between the considered-to-be Islam and West?