Back to Index

The West and Islam: Turkey, Istanbul

Foreign ministers from Europe are meeting their counterparts from Islamic countries in Istanbul in a conference aimed at bridging differences between Islam and the West after the 11 September attacks. Turkish officials say the aim of the forum is to combat the growing impression that the Muslim world and the West are involved in a clash of civilizations. Ministers from the EU and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) are discussing the topic of "Civilization and Harmony"

This is a retort to Sam Huntington's theory of a clash of civilizations, which seems self-evident. Turkey is on the spot, but it is really a bridge between the two groups. Istanbul (Constantinople) is a particularly sensitive issue, since it was the center of the Byzantine Empire, and was to be returned to Greece after World War I. Greeks are deeply resentful that it was not, and it remains a sore problem is relations between Europe and the Muslim world, In the 19th century some French thinkers thought that Constantinople would be the bridge between the two worlds, and it might be possible to revive the idea by proclaiming Istanbul an international city, somewhat like the UN in New York. the implications of this would required careful study before trying to implement the plan.

Ronald Hilton - 2/12/02