What lessons from history can we use to make the right choices regarding the West's confrontation with Islam?Somebody once said that if we are not willing to learn from history then we are doomed...

What lessons from history can we use to make the right choices regarding the West's confrontation with Islam?

Somebody once said that if we are not willing to learn from history then we are doomed to repeat it. What ealier historical situations can we learn from to repair and improve the West's relationship with Islam. I need this for a project. Thanks.

Expert Answers
enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The question isn't quite right -- it's more exact to ask for a history of Islam and Christianity, and how they've interacted over time, and given the background, where are we going. Although the boundaries are not exact, the Islamic world centers around the Middle East, and the Christian world is the "West;"  however, this designation isn't quite correct either, as Oriental nations have, over the last century, become "Westernized," not perhaps following the tenents of Christianity, but certainly embracing the industrialization and development that western culture originated.  Going further, one could argue that most of the world has been Westernized, although not Christianized.  The crux of the issue is that the Middle East, as a geographic and religious entity, is neither Western nor Christian; by definition, this puts them in conflict with most of the rest of the world.  The deeper question to ask is if there is such a thing as "Western Islam" -- will the nations of the Middle East, geographically and religiously homogeneous, remain that way and become more isolated from the progress of the rest of the world, or move towards industrialization and its attendant processes of democracy, freedom, and progress?  Are we in the West justified in even promoting our systems let alone forcing them upon the Middle East?  Should they be allowed to evolve on their own?  A comparative study on how the Orient assimilated the Occident may yield some insight as to how the Middle East may change, if it chooses to do so.

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As an historian I believe that the most dangerous endeavor with regard to history is for it to be postulated by revisionist historical perceptions.  One thing history teaches us is that no matter how 'just' nations have grown to be, still how horrible the world can be.  However, diminishing this horror to suit the polical correctness of the day is the equlivalent to an historian's nightmare.  With all due respect, hate and terror come in many colors and religions.  Whether it is extremist Islam or Chistianity, it is the fanaticism that must be held accountable by everyone.  When society cows down to the harsh realities of fanaticism because it is not a political correct topic among the powers that be, danger is in the air.  Let's face it folks hate can dress itself up anyway it wants, thus creating a sympathy where one is not deserved.  The reality check lesson of history is this; The born and breed Timothy McVieghs' of the United States are just as dangerous to the United States as the Osama BinLaden's and anyone else who seeks to destroy us.  This is a reality we as a nation must face.  With all due respect to those in Hollywood and elsewhere who believe that they are liked better by our nations' adversaries because of their politics...a news flash....they don't....they will use you to their own ends and dispose of you whenever it suits them... that is the politically incorrect statement to a very political possible reality.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one lesson that can be gained from our own history in regard to the West's relation to Islam is the idea that we, as a nation, seem to thrive when we seek to understand the "other" as opposed to try to deny or negate it.  Throughout our history, we seem to have been at our best when we have sought ways in which "the other," something that is outside our own pattern of existence, has been understood and fully grasped.  We have been at our worst when we have simply discarded the meaning and implications of "the other" and tried to obliterate it.  We proceeded with this in Vietnam with bad results.  Our historical interactions with people of color have been at our worst when we have not understood "the other," (slavery and Native American treatment, as well as immigrant discrimination) and our best when we have sought to integrate it into our own frame of reference (Civil Rights Act, Hate Crimes legislation, the Civil War Amendments).  Our relationship with Islam right now is at a precarious moment, and represents one where understanding and some level of discourse has to be opened.  We should be able to seek understanding with as many elements of it as possible before seeking to deny or negate all or more of it.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an example of why it's hard to learn from the lessons of history.  The previous post does a great job of laying out the case for trying to understand Islam better.  The points made in that post are great if you equate Islam with Vietnamese nationalism, for example.  In that case, they're both things that can't hurt us and the lesson of history is that we need to understand that.

But what if, for example, they (not all Muslims, but the extremists) are more like the Nazis (I'm taking no sides here -- just trying to get you to look at this from all sides.  Also, please understand that I'm not trying to say the extremists are genocidal -- just that they might constitute a real threat to our society)?  If they are like the Nazis and pose a real danger to us or to Western Civilization, the lesson from history is that we need to not try to repair the relationship.  The Europeans in the 1930s tried to repair and improve their relationship with Germany and that didn't end up well...

When you look at history, you can pick examples that will support more or less any action, and it's really hard to tell which ones really apply in a given situation.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous post actually expanded where I was intending to go.  As I composed my post, I actually did toy with how to address Hitler and the Nazis.  There comes a point in all interactions with "the other when it has to be determined if there is an aggressive threat in hand or one that is willing to coexist. I do believe that there are some times when force is needed.  However, I think that the example of the Nazis has to be clearly linked with a modern setting with parallels that are legitimate and extremely valid.  One of the worst elements of the Nazis is that they became the benchmark for all justifications of force, which might not be fully valid, upon further reflection.  The previous post is exactly right in its idea that there are enough situations in history to reject or validate nearly any methodology of thought and action.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
If we have learned anything in the last decade or so, it's that most Muslims are not terrorists and Islamic extremists do not represent all Muslims. Muslims are peaceful, and there is nothing in Islam that suggests the need to use violence to wipe out non-Muslims.
parama9000 | Student

The question is not exactly right, because history is doomed to repeat itself, out of human nature. There may be different variations of the same quote, but out of this quote, then history is doomed to repeat itself. Examples could be when Hitler was starting WWII in the 1930s. We should deem whether Islam represents extremism or is it a blanket-concept.