If one was to ask a number of average Americans on the street just a little over two years ago what the most important U.S. foreign policy objective should be, the answers given would be so varied as to eliminate any consensus. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, if that same question was posed, I believe that most Americans would be inclined to answer "check the spread of Islamic fundamentalism". No doubt that answer might be the same in Muslim nations, but with "check the spread of American hegemony" in its place. These views are reflected and often encouraged by the media and the expert scholars who believe that Islam and the West are soon to be in a "clash of civilizations". I would argue that this is not inevitable but more an expected outcome of the Islamist movement, the politicization of that religion and a media bias that negatively influences the opinions of many Westerners.
In order to better understand the argument, the distinctions between the so-called "West" and Muslim cultures must be first defined. The West is considered to be made up of liberal, democratic and capitalist nations including, among many others, the United States, Great Britain and France. Primarily the focal point of the West is the U.S., where individualism and religious and intellectual freedom are fundamental characteristics. Conversely, the Islamic world is not so easily defined. As there are a great number of Muslim nations and a variety of cultures that adhere to the religion, it is impossible to make a generalization of what represents the entirety of the Islamic school of thought. From the strict enforcement of the Shariah in Nigeria to the Islamist state of Iran to the secularism of Turkey, Islam cannot be characterized by one single political movement or view of the future. One cannot assume that the Islamists speak for the majority of Muslims. It is with this in mind that the belief in a "clash of civilizations" is on shaky ground.