The Clash of Globalizations

Christianity and Islam, two religions with global spiritual agendas, battle on earthly terrain

Ira RifkinIra Rifkin is one of the country's best known religion journalists. A former Beliefnet editor, Ira is currently a contributing writer for's Opinions page and Washington correspondent for Jerusalem Report magazine. His new book "Spiritual Perspectives on Globalization" from Skylight Paths Publishing surveys the responses of Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Hindus, as well as Baha'is and Earth-based faiths, to the West's economic and cultural transformation of the world.

We talked to Ira about the competing global agendas of Christianity and Islam, as they are being played out the conflict in Iraq.

Some Iraqis and other Muslims say the current war is globalization by other means, if you will. Can you explain this mindset, and what are they afraid of?

In a very real sense, globalization is the exportation of Western economic and cultural values. That's very threatening to many Muslims, who have their own religious beliefs about which economic and cultural values should prevail globally.

It's not that these Muslims are anti-globalization, but rather that they are



-globalization, meaning they have an alternative vision of the values that should prevail. Traditional Muslims believe they are in alignment with God's, or to use the Arabic term, Allah's preferred values. So to succumb to Western notions of globalization is, for them, to succumb to a system not in alignment with Allah's plan for humanity, and is deeply troubling and even offensive to them.

This helps explain why Muslims who despise Saddam Hussein have rallied to his defense and in opposition to the United States. Of course, nationalism and historical wrongs, both real and imagined, also play a role. It's a very complicated situation that is becoming more dangerous by the day.

When you talk about cultural globalization, does this boil down to McDonalds and Jennifer Lopez videos?

McDonalds and J-Lo are manifestations of the far deeper question of cultural and personal identity. Globalization, because it involves rapid and deep-seated changes in lifestyles, can upset everything a person thinks about who they are and what's important. In the past, these changes occurred over much longer periods of time. People were able to adapt slowly. Today, the changes wrought by communications and travel technologies are so rapid that human psychology, the human spirit, can't keep up. So it breeds defensiveness.

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