The Notion of "Alien" in Emerging Multicultural Values

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Baku, 3 Jule 2017 –

The Globalization and transformations on the international scene as well as within the societies in individual countries, provoked by such processes, are most certainly among the major challenges of our times. Ultimately, the globalization is about universal values, multicultural environment, tolerance towards the differences and astronomic speed of the processes and developments. Therefore, those aspects cannot but be reflected in the new world order.

Advocates of the liberal world order propagate the idea that the universal values and none other than the common ones accepted by the West only, must rest in the core of every society and the system of international relations. Indeed, reference to the values accepted exclusively by the West as the ones which convey the universality and applicability with respect to the entire world is a flawed attitude.

How can a family conduct code or any other value cherished by over one billion people be seen in the eyes of the West as a stereotype pertaining to China? Similarly, Western world’s rejection of the values of the Indian civilization, the Turkic world or Islam, simply because they are different, engenders new threats and challenges to the world order and every society. This is the very attitude that leads to the rise of radical religious and ultra-nationalist trends guised under the search for justice, affected by the clash of civilizations, intolerance of differences, double standards and all forms of religious, racial and ethnic phobias.

Regrettably, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse and dissolution of the Socialist camp the leading nations of the world, while shaping the new architecture of the system of international relations, chose to divide the world into "ours'' and "theirs'' and "us'' and "them''. And the new architecture failed to provide space for the values and the rights of the others. While creating a unipolar world model the West offered no alternative approach that would appeal to all the countries. The Western values chosen as a backbone of the new world order became the primary obstacle to stable international relations, producing new threats and challenges, and prompted a debate regarding the downfall of the liberal world.

Current developments once again confirm that while molding the new world order the previous lessons should have been learned and the principles satisfying all the members within the system of the international relations developed. However, the shaping of the new world order was initiated unilaterally, without taking into account the views of other members of the international community and the state of affairs within the international relations. It is no coincidence that Robert Kagan, one of the prominent ideologists of the liberal world order, is warning that the rising nationalism, lack of confidence in the capitalist system and democracy, as well as discrimination with respect to "others'' within different societies are among the major threats to the world order in the third millennium[i].

The ideologists of the new Western world believe that discrimination based on the "native'' and "alien'' and "us'' and "those'' principles, as well as the polarization within the societies are among the major hurdles for the longevity of the new world order. Yet, instead of respecting and embracing the rights and values of all the members of the international community in order to prevent division and polarization, they persist to impose a single mold of values they consider liberal upon the rest of the world. That approach makes way into our daily lives through conventional hard power and more effectively, the elements of the soft power exerted by the West. All of that cast the shadow of doubt upon the viability of a model or a system that it is supposed to be universal.

Limits of the Multicultural Environment

Abovementioned aspects restrict the boundaries of the multicultural environment and narrow the space for its propagation, while preconditioning the discrimination in the society based on the principle of native and alien. The developments of the new millennium demonstrate that an effort to enforce the universal values centered solely on the Western ones encounters opposition around the world. Under such circumstances, the environment of multiculturalism can merely be of local or regional relevance rather than being universal.

Therefore, the discourse on the universality of the multicultural values requires meticulousness. In other words, the global outreach of the multicultural environment appears implausible. It is a commonly known fact that tolerance is a main ingredient for the multicultural environment to prosper. That being said, the prevalence of a tolerant attitude with respect to others on the global scale looks questionable in light of the developments of the modern era. Indeed, racial, religious and ethnic phobias and segregations create prerequisites for polarization and division within the societies and the world order in general.

Intensive nature of inter-state migration and the influx of migrants heading towards the wealthy nations as a result of the globalization processes ultimately shake the pillars of the multicultural environment in the West.

The drive to welcome cheap labor almost automatically by the West and the approach of ensuring that the newcomers immediately embrace the universal values, without taking into account national, cultural and religious peculiarities, has certainly failed. Such an attitude had led to isolation of the labor migrant community instead of facilitating their integration. The newcomers were regarded almost as products with certain "life cycle” that were supposed to be returned once the job is done. And as the citizens of the Old Continent gradually realized that all of them lived next to mostly Muslim neighbors the issue of religious tolerance came into spotlight.

When it comes to religion, outside of Christianity, the Western civilization historically has never embraced the bearers of other religions as the ones of their own. As Christianity became the fundamental value for the Western civilization, some of the vestiges of the Western civilization seen alien by the Christianity from the religious perspective were nonetheless embraced by the new religion. The new Christianity and the antique Western culture converged and became synchronized to the extent that values became identical. Certainly, both had to shed some features in the process for the sake of forging common values[ii].

The history stands witness to genocides and anti-Semitism trends as even the Judaism was once regarded as alien. When it comes to Islam, the attitude towards it in the West has remained unchanged for centuries. According to Turkish scholar Ibrahim Kalin, there are three factors that are associated with the underlying reasons for such conflict in the West-Islam relationship. He believes that "the Christian world initially regarded Islam a religious-theological challenge, then a political challenge and finally a cultural threat''[iii]. In other words, given the West’s perception of Islam as a religious-political-cultural threat, the harmony in the relationship remains elusive.

Although, there had been cases pointing to the viability of peaceful coexistence under the rule of Islam and the Muslims in Europe. The period in history starting with conquest of Hispania by the Umayyad Caliphate in the early seventh century and ending in 1492 with the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, is one of such examples. Also known as "La Convivencia” during that period the Muslims, Christians and Jews coexisted peacefully in Cordoba, Spain. That is one of rare examples across the "Old Continent'' when in the presence of a political will religion did not serve as a divisive factor within the society.

Thus, as a result of historical factors and the economic and social welfare gap, the influx of migrants from poor Muslim countries to the affluent Europe had exacerbated the discrimination between the natives and aliens. It is no coincidence that in the new millennium, under the impact of an economic crisis, the European leaders speak of the crisis of multiculturalism and openly state that those who do not share same values with the West, especially the religious ones, are no longer welcome in Europe. This is an indication that the multicultural environment in the West is declining, even within its own regional habitat. The migrants accounting for 10-30 percent of the population in the European countries is an indication that Europe’s multicultural fabric is far from being homogenous and its boundaires are quite blury.

It must be noted that the debate about the failure of the approach based on perception of "rejecting the aliens'' has exhausted itself. In the past decade we had seen the most European leaders promoting the Western values based lifestyle as a model while arguing that anything counter is the crisis of multiculturalism. Global developments demonstrate that such an approach has clearly nose-dived as it paved the way for confrontation and differences on religious grounds.

In this sense, the position of the president of the Western world’s leading country – the U.S. – is a sign of a changing attitude. Delivering his remarks at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh on 21 May 2017 President Donald Trump said, "In my inaugural address to the American people, I pledged that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others…''[iv]. This is a vivid testimony that coercive recognition of exceptionality of certain set of values has no future. That is why contrary to the views of the European leaders, multiculturalism is very much alive, and it is just the attitude of imposing "own'' values upon the "others'' that has hit the brick wall.

Thus, a fascinating picture emerges. The societies have never been so globalized and that includes every sphere of our lives. Hundreds events or notions that we encounter in our daily lives have already become a global phenomenon. For example, today, sushi is attributed to Japan, pizza to Italy and doner to Turkey merely because those are the countries where that food originated. Whereas when it comes to the relevance geography, they are consumed globally. Even this basic example demonstrates clearly that tangible and moral heritage or value pertaining to a certain nation is no longer confined to a limited geography and that global philosophy rules the day.

Similarly, the scale and intensity of the migrant movement effected by the globalization is compared to none. The migrants have become an indispensable component of the population structure of the wealthy nations around the world.

Yet the developments prove that the globalziation and migration processes are disproportionate to the multicultural environment. The coexistence of the representatives of different faiths, cultures, races and ethnicities, mutual close interaction with physical and moral values and even their recognition have regrettably failed to lead to thriving multicultural atmosphere. And the Western world’s rejection of the multicultural environment that embraces the values of all makes the situation even more frustrating. That is why a discourse about the global outreach of the multiculturalism is rather irrelevant. Only the individual countries that are consistent in their respective policies can boast successful models.

The declarations regarding the demise of the multiculturalism that can be so often heard in the West serve the political agenda. However, it would be erroneous to suggest that the statements made by the Western political leaders and scholarly quarters are echoed by the entire international community. First, it must be stressed that the concept of homogeneous mosaic structure, dominated by the Western values and being branded as multiculturalism in Europe was doomed from the outset. Therefore, failure of such a mosaic structure is not tantamount to the multiculturalism’s fiasco. Second, impact of the "initial'' and "eventual'' diversity on the society must not be discarded. According to observations, even the centuries-old coexistence in the environment of "initial diversity'' fails to lead to multiculturalism. It mainly varies based on the different national and religious identities and lifestyles.

Therefore, coexistence must not be regarded as an underlying factor for building the cultural diversity. And this is true for today’s Europe in the environment of "eventual diversity''. That is to say that the Muslims who became native citizens of a certain country in Europe as a result of the flow of migrants have proven it impossible to be rallied around the idea of multiculturalism based exclusively on the typical Western values. Yet the failure of the Western values must not be interpreted as the crisis of multiculturalism. The difference lies in the way how the multiculturalism is perceived – way of life or a political instrument. For the likes of Azerbaijan, where multiculturalism is a way of life, the environment for cultural diversity in the country is thriving.

As the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev had put it in his remarks at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers dedicated to the results of socioeconomic development of 2015, "The example of Azerbaijan shows that multiculturalism is alive, although some politicians argue that it has failed. It may have failed somewhere else, but it still lives in Azerbaijan. These trends and ideas are amplified and receive growing public support. We will go down this path''[v].

Native and Alien Duo in the Society

Historically, be it on the international level or domestically, segregation between the "native'' and "alien'' have always engendered intolerance and discrimination, and impaired the emergence of multicultural values. Nevertheless, given different perspectives, such segregation in the society is inevitable because in the world, particularly in the globalization era, the existence of a mono-cultural environment and the society appears almost unviable. Under such circumstances, the feasible tandem of "native'' and "alien'' is a major precondition for the harmonic relationship in the society. Provided that there is coexistence between the bearers of different values, regardless of the superiority of one over another, and the way of life centered on unification and not segregation, the multicultural environment can be resilient. In other words, the philosophy of coexistence is directly proportionate to the ability of aliens to assimilate.

From the historical perspective, the Western civilization has embodied the ethnic, religious, racial and cultural discrimination against the bearers of different values that has led to alienation. According to Ibrahim Kalin, "European reasoning has been that the world beyond Europe is the one in need of becoming civilized. Therefore, they offered a "forcible civilization mission'' whereby the "white man'' embarked on a moral and cultural quest to bring non-Europe into conformity. In reality it had been nothing but an endeavor to put a legal guise on the European colonialism in the nineteenth century''.

Secularization and cultural alienation in the name of modernization has created deeply entrenched distrust with the Muslim world towards the West. Today, in the post-colonial era that wariness still lingers. The Muslim countries that had endured years of colonial life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have rightfully considered the Western culture as alien. From this point of view, this can be seen as a resistance method. The grievances that range from the Palestinian problem to the economic dependence and Islamophobia, constitute the social and political core of that resistance''.

Viewing of the values from the Western and non-Western civilization’s perspective plays an important role here. Russian scholar Alexander Zinovyev managed to highlight this difference adeptly: "The values are the principal point of contention in the dialogue between the West and other civilizations. Attribution of the status of inviolability and sacredness to the values and separation of the values from the interests are among the distinctive features of the Oriental mentality. The values cannot be implicated in the political and economic rivalry that is considered to be dirty, whereas in the Western mentality, the preciousness of the values is measured by their use in daily operations; the values are the means of furtherance of interests''[vi].

One of the thought-provoking challenges of the modernity lies within the religious domain. Particularly, the rising flow of migrants from the Muslim countries to Europe in the wake of the turmoil in the Middle and Near East has added urgency to the West-Islam relationship. There is an overwhelming intolerance towards the Muslim migrants in the European countries. The traditional Muslim lifestyle is being banned legally while "Stop Islam'' has become the most popular slogan across the Old Continent.

It is no coincidence that world-renowned scholar Samuel Huntington considers this century the one of religious identity. Huntington argues that in Europe and the West in general, the notion of national identity has historically overlaid the one of religious identity and that continues to be the case today. In his book "Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity'' he writes, "In the early stage of European nationalism, national identity was often defined primarily in religious terms. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, nationalist ideologies became largely secular. The twenty-first century, however, is dawning as a century of religion''[vii].

Therefore, one of the major challenges of our time is the attitude based on the discrimination between the native and alien in the relationship within the society and on the international scene in general. Regrettably, such an attitude is more pronounced in the area of religion, present in the Sunni-Shia relationship in Islam, and Catholic-Protestant and Orthodox relationship in Christianity. Since the religious identity prevails over the national identity, even the groups with same ethnic roots are being discriminated against. This is the angle from which the modern developments across the Balkans and the Arab nations must be viewed.

The discrimination within the society between the natives and aliens plays a crucial role. From this point of view, in Azerbaijan, the bearers of different values, rallying around the Azerbaijanism ideology, have managed to create a model of a multicultural nation. Historically, the representatives of different religions and cultures have coexisted in Azerbaijan, enriching it’s very fabric. It is a Muslim nation that Christians and Jews alike have called home for centuries. Azerbaijan is also the place where the people of various denominations within Islam have coexisted peacefully. The Heydar Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan is where the people of faiths of various Islamic backgrounds come together to perform the Unity Prayer. And that is the strongest message from Azerbaijan to the rest of the Muslim world.

The multiculturalism that is based on the mutual respect towards the values of the others is recognized as the way of life in Azerbaijan and the ideology of coexistence is underpinned by the successful embracing of the differences.

Arastu Habibbeyli

Deputy Head of the Foreign Policy Issues Department Administration of the

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ph.D. in Economics

To follow author on Twitter: @AHabibbayli

[i] Robert Kagan. The twilight of the liberal world order. January 24, 2017

[ii] Ə.Həbibbəyli. Sivilizasiyaların kəsişməsində Türk dünyası. Baku, 2011, p.112

[iii] İbrahim Kalın. "Ben, Öteki ve Ötesi'' (İslam-Batı ilişkileri tarihine giriş). İstanbul, 2016, p. 59

[vi] Александр Зиновьев. Запад: Феномен Западнизма. Москва 2003, p.27

[vii] Самюэль Хантингтон. Кто мы? Вызовы американкой национальной идентичности. Москва 2008, p.39

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