The second-biggest Shia spiritual leader (who, perfectly enough, I’ve never heard of) was quoted on NPR today from something he said last Friday (2006-09-22) as saying that there is no “conflict of civilizations”, only a “conflict of ignorance”.
Which is as near to correct as any statement yet on the current West vs. Mid-East “blow each other up” gestalt. This phrase also appeared three years ago, by a Harvard Middle-Eastern studies professor who was working with a relative of a 9/11 victim:
“I saw this conflict not as a clash of civilizations — there are value systems that extremists on both sides share — I saw this as a conflict of ignorance of the other,” Asani said. “With Elinor, I think her ambition and goal is to remove that ignorance and create a better human-to-human understanding.” Ali Asani, quoted in “For bereaved mother, world is a bigger place“
Even as I write this, I know there’s some right-winger out there (e.g. Ann Coulter) who’s feverishly imagining this demonstrates how ivy league intellectuals who say things they don’t agree with are secretly in cahoots with the Islatermexunist menace—because the whole world must be one giant monolithic conspiracy of everyone you don’t like, and “commie Jews” just doesn’t generate genocidal mania they think is needed these days.