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Katherine Bullock



A common accusation made by Muslims is that the West disrespects Islam
and employs a double standard when dealing with them. It is so easy to find
instances of hypocrisy that one may reasonably argue that it is the West’s
default response to Muslims (e.g., saying it supports democracy while
financing authoritarian regimes, or saying Islam oppresses women while
overlooking the prevalence of sexual harassment against women in the western
In his “Clash of Civilizations” article, Samuel Huntington argued that
such double standards are an inevitable result of the “kin-country syndrome”:
“Aworld of clashing civilizations…is inevitably a world of double
standards: people apply one standard to their kin-countries and a different
standard to others.”1 So, Muslims should not complain about such western
double standards as sanctioning Iraq for failing to comply with United
Nations resolutions (he was writing in the 1990s) while ignoring the same
failure when it comes to Israel.2 His idea of a kin-based double standard has
parallels in other cultures, of course, as reflected in theArab proverb “Myself
againstmy brother;my brother andmyself againstmy cousin; andmy cousin,
my brother, and myself against the foreigner.”
Sacrificing justice for all in the name of protecting oneself and one’s
“kin” is both blameworthy and a source of tension in today’s international
system. It is also connected to a simplistic western understanding ofMuslims
and the internal and external challenges they face as a community. Both of
these lead to negative judgments of Muslims and Muslim cultures. To
explain. In his article, Huntington went on, famously, to propose that as the
United States moved into sole superpower status and as the West’s “victory”
in the cold war demonstrated that the western liberal capitalist model was
the best political system, the coming age would be marked by wars
sparked by civilizational differences instead of ideology. “Islam”was singled
out as a civilization most likely to cause wars, due to certain aspects of its
essential nature (“Islam has bloody borders [p. 35].)” He posited a dyadic
relationship between the West and Islam: whereas western values were laudable,
they were missing in Islam, for ...

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