Thus the dilemma is that Muslim scholars are facing in an era of globalisation the task of ‘de-terrorisation’ (facing militant groups) and ‘de-totalitarianisation’ (facing authoritarian regimes), while struggling with the consequences of ‘de-territorialisation’ of their faith communities that are no longer confined in political boundaries. Moreover, in an age of rising unilateralism and global hegemony, the propaganda of fear and nightmares under the banner of war against terrorism or war against the ‘war on terror’ overwhelms their tasks. And the dilemma for Western scholars lies in the fact that concepts of a territorially bounded civil society are no longer relevant. On the one hand, globalisation has brought about what Ulrich Beck calls the debounding of risk (Beck 1992). On the other hand, it has brought about a greater consciousness of genocide and human rights violations in distant places. And this greater consciousness is expressed in the growing importance of human rights and humanitarian law. Thus Western thinkers share with their Muslim colleagues the task of de-territorisation and de-totalitarianisation, including the need to address the security measures that curb civil liberties in democratic Western countries, while at the same time they also have to foster a global concept of civility that can help to underpin new non-state layers of authority and international legal frameworks.

This notion that power and violence are opposites echoes similar distinctions that are to be found in both classical Islamic thought and in the ideas of the European Enlightenment. Classical Islamic thought distinguished between the realm of Islam dar al-Islam and the realm of war dar al-harb. The realm of Islam was a community characterised by a political authority, whose authority derived from the rule of law Shari’a and a social contract Bay’a. Islam was a system of values contained in the Qu’ran and the Hadith (the sayings and practises of Prophet Mohammed) and interpreted by scholars Ulama. It was based on a notion of human reason, later taken up in Enlightenment thought, which was derived from individual knowledge or awareness of God’s will that is imprinted on human consciousness. Within the realm of Islam, the use of force was condemned because violence causes instability, challenges the legacy of the elected authority and results in chaos and civil war (Bagh’ii, Fitnah). The towering Shafi’i jurist, Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi (d. 450/1058), includes among the definitions of the realm of Islam (dar al-Islam) not only legal conditions but also human and socio-political security dimensions; thus he defined the realm of Islam as any land in which a Muslim enjoys security and is able to protect himself, even if he is unable to promote the religion (Jackson 2002: 37). This is one of the definitions used by contemporary scholars to explain why Muslims in the West should be loyal to the nation states in which they live, even if those countries are not Muslim majority countries. The realm of war referred to an arena of irrationality and ignorance where there was no single political authority, and tribal conflict was endemic; and it was vis-à-vis foreign political enemies that war was permitted under certain circumstances.

Since the early 1990s the notion of a ‘clash of civilisations’ has become an increasingly dominant paradigm (Huntington 1993; Lewis 1990; 1993). This concept provides an implicit underpinning to both terror and the ‘war on terror’. After 9/11, the space for more nuanced interpretations of culture was squeezed. Indeed, some neo-conservatives made deliberate efforts to silence critical voices, especially on university campuses (Kramer 2001; and see Campus Watch URL). Scholars that convey a more complex interpretation of the nature of Islam revise historical assumptions about relations between Islam and Christianity and the West, encourage reconciliation, or even devise innovative and constructive concepts such as ‘Islamo-Christian civilization’ (Bulliet 2004), which would facilitate multicultural and cosmopolitan debates in order to build an overlapping global concept of civility, have been marginalised in the polarising rhetoric of the ‘war on terror’. The questioning that is essential for understanding is seen as unpatriotic. Very little has been written about the Muslim contribution to the formation of the moral and ethical foundations of the international system (Waltz 2002). Ideas and hypotheses that advocate exclusion and conflict are more likely to attract media coverage because they are more controversial, and therefore newsworthy.