Role of NGOs in Shaping Public Attitudes to People of a Different Culture and Religion Introduction
Huntington’s “The clash of civilizations thesis”, which claimed that future conflicts will stem from civilizational differences, aroused considerable debate among not only political scientists but also religious organizations in recent years (especially after 11 September). A number of scholars empirically tested Huntington’s clash of civilizations thesis and found little support for his thesis (Cox, Russet & Oneal , 2000 ; Finke &Grim, 2007) While some radical religious groups welcomed Huntington’s thesis, others attempted to challenge it through interreligious dialogue activities. The number of NGOs that promote interfaith dialogue has tremendously increased during recent years. However, there is no quantitative research done about the influence of interfaith NGOs in shaping public attitudes towards either clash of civilizations thesis or people from other nations and religions. How successful and effective are they in promoting peace through interfaith dialogue and refuting Huntington’s ‘the clash of civilizations’ thesis? Is dialogue between religions or even believers and non believers viable? Is religion a source of conflict (as argued in Huntington’s thesis) or source of peace? These questions remain unanswered. Interfaith dialogue is a new phenomena and the previous research done on this issue is qualitative and descriptive which fails to provide empirical evidence whether interfaith dialogue attempts affect public attitude on this issue or not. This study aims to fill this gap by empirically testing the relationship between the existence of NGOs that promote interfaith dialogue in a country and public attitude to people of different culture and religions. I will first review the literature and previous research done about clash of civilizations thesis, interfaith dialogue attempts and the influence of NGOs. Due to lack of scholarly studies that focus on impact of NGOs in shaping public opinion, I reviewed studies about development and general role of the NGOs. Then, I will propose my research question, hypothesis and research design. I will conclude with expected findings of the study. Literature Review
Clash of Civilizations
Huntington argued that (1996:28), “. . . the most pervasive, important and dangerous conflicts will be between people belonging to different cultural entities…And the most dangerous cultural conflicts are those along the fault lines between civilizations. .. It is now the line separating peoples of Western Christianity, on the one hand, from Muslim and Orthodox peoples on the other.” Huntington placed religion at the core of civilization and saw it as the source of conflict which led to an ongoing debate about relations between Islam and the West. Some scholars criticized Huntington for his notion of a single Islamic culture and ignorance of diversity within civilizations (Esposito & Voll 1996; Grim& Finke 2007; Hunter 1998). Said (2001) claimed that Huntington attempted to revive a ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ dichotomy and to substitute the old threat of communism with threat of Islam (as cited in Inglehart & Norris, 2002). Hunter (1998) argued that there is nothing intrinsic or historic in Islam that is anti-Western. Inglehart & Norris (2002) tested ‘the clash of civilizations’ thesis by comparing social and political values of Muslims and Western societies. Huntington argued that the strongest cultural clash between Western and Muslim societies will stem from differences in core political values such as support for democracy. Contrary to ‘clash’ thesis, Inglehart & Norris (2002) found that there is no difference between Western society and Muslim nations as far as the political values are concerned. Support for democracy was even slightly stronger among Muslim respondents compared to Western societies. However, they found a sharp difference...