Tag Archives: Council on Foreign Relations

Samuel Huntington’s “Bloody Borders” Revisited

In 1993, in a controversial essay written for Foreign Affairs titled “The Clash of Civilizations,” the influential Harvard University political scientist Samuel P. Huntington (d. 2008) wrote:

“In Eurasia the great historic fault lines between civilizations are once more aflame. This is particularly true along the boundaries of the crescent-shaped Islamic bloc of nations, from the bulge of Africa to central Asia. Violence also occurs between Muslims, on the one hand, and Orthodox Serbs in the Balkans, Jews in Israel, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Burma and Catholics in the Philippines. Islam has bloody borders.”

Samuel Huntington

Samuel Huntington, Harvard University’s Albert J. Weatherhead University Professor. Staff Photo Jon Chase/Harvard University News Office

Critics responded swiftly. They argued that Huntington’s claim represented an unfair attack on Islam and refused to take into account other factors (such as economics, for example) beyond simple religious differences. Others rejected his particular definitions of “civilizations.” Nevertheless, a few years later, Huntington defended and stood firmly by his original comments in his 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. In it (pages 256-258), he laid out evidence that he argued “was overwhelming” in support of his thesis. He noted that while Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population, “they have been far more involved in intergroup violence than the people of any other civilization.”

For his evidence, he list three primary points. Continue reading