In fact, none other than the president of Iran has called for a "dialogue of civilizations" about globalization, in contrast to the "clash of civilizations" that many Western policy makers, led by Harvard's Samuel Huntington, believe will inevitably define relations between the West and Muslim (and other non-Western) peoples in the future.

Yet to be fair, the problem isn't just due to organizers of these movements not thinking and searching broadly enough. Certainly, Middle Eastern activists need to speak more loudly and demand to be included. After reading dozens of books by Arab and Muslim critics, I found it troubling how often their views mirror those of Huntington's "clash of civilizations" thesis--even as they condemn them.

But if "Islam" is the only alternative for many critics, others look also to the Third World and even Europe for allies with whom a more democratic and inclusive world system can be established. However, the almost universal exclusion of Americans from this conversation is equally troubling. After all, it took decades for America to be transformed from a frugal, spirit-oriented culture to today's hyper-consumerist society; the change is neither irreversible here nor inevitable elsewhere. And certainly, it won't happen without America's participation.


Indeed, according to Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish, the founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, America's very desire to remain the dominant power in the global era will likely force it to deal more justly with Arab and Muslim concerns, lest Middle Eastern leaders "get off the American globalization Concorde"--taking their oil with them--and re-board on one made by an inevitably resurgent China.

It is clear that this moment in history, while the rules of the emerging world order are still open for debate, offers an important opportunity to heal the wounds and excesses of the century now ended and address the challenges of the globalization juggernaut. As Louay Safi puts it, "Ultimately, Muslim experiences underscore the importance and possibility of maintaining both a progressive agenda and...a desire to maintain a core of traditional values, such as an emphasis of family, spirituality, and moderation in living."

This is a perspective from which a true dialogue can begin. But we all need to be talking first.