Islamic Fatalism and the Clash of Civilizations: An Appraisal of a Contentious and Dubious Theory

Publication Abstract

Acevedo GA. 2008. "Islamic Fatalism and the Clash of Civilizations: An Appraisal of a Contentious and Dubious Theory." Social Forces 86(4): 1711-52.

This paper will address the question of Islamic fatalism. Survey data will be used to assess Samuel P. Huntington's controversial "Clash of Civilizations" thesis and its emphasis on fatalism as an inherent characteristic of Islamic religion. The concept of fatalism is expanded and theorized as a function of both structural and theological dimensions. Findings here suggest that fatalism in the Islamic world remains a largely misunderstood phenomenon. Christians living in predominantly Muslim countries are no more fatalistic than their Muslim neighbors; and in Indonesia, Christians report higher levels of fatalism than Indonesian Muslims. However, Muslims do indicate a higher level of belief that cosmological forces control life's outcomes than do Christians living in those same Islamic societies. Findings also suggest that the effect of Western influence on fatalism is not as straightforward as that predicted by Huntington's theory. Fatalism in the Muslim world is best understood in light of complex historical, cultural, economic and socio-political processes and not as a direct outcome of Western influence and/or religious denomination alone.

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