E. Tavares: In Part I we discussed the ongoing decline of Western Civilization. In this Part we will talk about other major civilizations, or better put their successors, and how they relate to that process. We say successors because as you point out they have all collapsed.

Muslim Civilization disappeared with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Russian Civilization was obliterated by communist totalitarianism and the resulting millions of casualties. Likewise, the Chinese communist revolution obliterated that nation’s millennial traditions and customs by design. And Indian Civilization did not resist successive Muslim invasions.

Since all four follow a similar pattern of collapse, turmoil, transition and picking up the pieces, let’s use it to analyze each one in turn, starting with the Islamic world.

Talking about its collapse may actually sound nonsensical here since it is the fastest growing religion on the planet (by demographics, not actual conversions), we have seen the emergence of very conservative versions across many Muslim countries, including the once strongly secular Turkey, it touches Western, Russian and Chinese borders (not always peacefully) and it is a topic of robust political discussion on both sides of the Atlantic. So how can the Islamic Civilization be dead?

H. Redner: What you assert is largely true - Islam is expanding both demographically in terms of numbers and geographically in respect of the exodus of Muslims to other areas of the world beyond their countries of origin; but, at the same time, it is also the case that an Islamic civilization is no longer functioning as an autonomous entity, and if not completely dead, it is dying, as is also the case with other civilizations. This is a paradox on which Samuel Huntington floundered with his theory of a “war of civilizations”, which has been mindlessly echoed ever since his book was published twenty years ago. There is no “war of civilizations”; that which he took to be such is a very different phenomenon, which has partly to do with the paradox to which you allude. The upsurge of Jihadist movements in Muslim countries and the terrorism this has generated all over the world is an internal revolution peculiar to the people of what was once an Islamic civilization.

Islamic radical militancy has arisen because of the huge expansion of population and failure of all attempts at development, particularly economic development, in most of the Muslim sphere over the last half century, and even further back since the First World War. Jihadism is an act of desperation that many Muslims resort to in the face of constant failure and defeat. “Islam is the answer to all problems” is their motto, whereas the truth is that Islam, insofar as it holds back development, is itself part of the problem. In fact, Jihadism is sure to make the Muslim predicament worse and lead to further failures and defeats; it is a self-defeating suicidal prescription. One can only hope that Muslims abandon it and learn to face their difficulties in the modern global world more realistically and rationally.

To return on a more theoretical level to the paradox you raise, it is necessary first of all to distinguish between religion and civilization. Huntington failed to do this and largely identified the two with all the resultant confusions to which this led him. That religion is distinct from, and not to be simplistically identified with civilization, is obvious from two widespread occurrences in history: firstly, the survival of a religion where the civilization that gave birth to it has been destroyed; and secondly, the spread of a religion beyond its original civilization to various other civilizations, which is particularly the case with the so-called universal religions. Examples of the first phenomenon are such obvious cases as the survival of Hinduism when the autonomous Indian civilization was overrun by Muslim invaders over a period of almost a thousand years; or, analogously, the persistence of Greek Orthodox Christianity in the Balkans after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1454. It is true that these religions retain something from their civilizational origins, but this amounts to no more than popular culture, traditions and ceremonial practices which fall far short of constituting a coherent civilization. An example of the second phenomenon was the spread of Buddhism from India to China, Japan and most of East Asia, where very different civilizations prevailed. Christianity is an even more salient instance of a religion that at one time or another existed in almost all civilizations and is still prevalent worldwide. In the form of Nestorianism, it was present through most of Asia among different civilizations and peoples. Even the barbarians who invaded and destroyed the Christian Roman Empire were themselves Christians of the Arian heresy.

Thus the paradox dissolves itself: the spread of Islam as a religion both demographically and geographically has nothing to do with civilization and does not indicate any resurgence of Islamic civilization, which is largely defunct. Thus, Jihadi militancy and its terrorist attacks in the West are not part of any war of civilizations, but rather an outlandish tactic in an ongoing civil war within the Muslim world. It is a battle for power waged by religious ideologues who have utilized aspects of the Muslim religion, particularly those drawn from its most rigid and authoritarian sects, in order to concoct a modern political reactionary ideology, in the name of which they hope to seize power. They aim to turn the masses against their Westernizing as well as more traditionalist opponents. Terrorist outrages in Western countries are part of a propaganda campaign, what the anarchists used to call the “propaganda of the deed”, intended to win over the faithful to their cause. It is, in effect, a form of advertising, in which the Western media are utilized at no cost to spread the message. All this is part of an extremely confused struggle within Muslim societies for the hearts and minds of the masses by a number of not clearly distinguishable contenders for authoritarian power. It is not unlike what went on in Europe between the two world wars, when in many countries fundamentalist Catholic ideologies were formulated by reactionary parties in opposition to the more liberal or socialistic ones and they did succeed in seizing power in numerous Catholic countries, Spain and Portugal among others. Of course, this is only an analogy, not a complete likeness, for there are great differences between the two types of religious ideologies.

ET: Historically, Islam adopted key traits of the civilizations it has conquered over the centuries, with the Byzantine and the Persian being particular salient examples. Given the evolving demographic picture in Europe it seems likely that many societies will adopt a more Islamic political character as their Muslim populations continue to grow strongly. Could European Civilization provide a new framework for Islam to develop around, or are the two fundamentally incompatible? And where will this leave native Europeans at that point?

HR: It is true that Islamic civilization, a very late one in history, was a very mixed case, which successfully combined characteristics from a number of preceding civilizations, Byzantine and Persian in particular. Islam as a religion also modeled itself on and borrowed from many of the previously existing religions in the Middle East, especially Judaism, Christianity and Manichaeism, as well as retaining older Arabian polytheistic practices. This is, of course, firmly denied by fundamentalist Muslims who hold it as an article of faith that their religion was a divine revelation vouchsafed at one time to one man, Muhammad. Comparative religious scholarship is of a different opinion not compatible with such orthodoxy. The battle between scripture and scholarship that Christianity had to confront in the nineteenth century will most probably take place in Islam in the twenty first and twenty second centuries.

Theoretically considered, there is no reason why Islam cannot adapt itself to Modernity in the way that most Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, apart from certain fundamentalist sects in both cases, have already done so. Islam is not doomed to fundamentalism forever after; it is not an inalienable feature of the religion as such. However, in practice it has proved extremely difficult to overcome Islamic fundamentalism, because of the intolerance of the religious establishment to any departures from the authorized interpretation of the creed. The fact that many Muslims are now resident in Europe, where presumed heretics or apostates cannot be dealt with as summarily or violently as they are in Muslim countries, makes no real difference at present. Most imams and sheikhs in mosques come from Muslim countries and are trained there in the traditional orthodox way. They are not likely to allow any liberalizing departures, especially so as many mosques are funded by Saudi Arabia. If imams were educated in Western universities this might make a difference, but very few are so at present.

Western societies will not, as you put it, "adopt a more Islamic political character as their Muslim populations continue to grow", despite doomsayers such as the French novelist Michel Houellebecq, because that would mean abandoning everything we stand for, the whole tradition of the Enlightenment. On the contrary, it is Islam which has to come to terms with the Enlightenment and its liberal developments. I do not believe that Islam and Western Enlightenment are in principle opposed, but how they are to be made compatible in practice, and what changes Islam is at present prepared to undergo to this end, is not something on which I am in a position to venture an opinion.

ET: Why do you say it is very difficult to reform Islam? European Muslims for one could threaten to “walk out” en masse if nothing changes. Even French and German political leaders have advocated developing their own domestic versions, specifically addressing some of the issues you outlined. Is this not a workable solution?

HR: Islam never experienced a Reformation or counter-Reformation such as Christianity undertook centuries ago. It never went through the Enlightenment. It has more or less remained unchanged for over a thousand years, perhaps even since the main split between the Shia and Sunnis arose. The idea that some French or German leaders might have of developing “their own domestic versions of the religion” are surely mere wishful thinking.

Changes in Islam will have to come from within Islam. And they will not emerge from the scattered diaspora communities in Europe or elsewhere, they must come from the Muslim heartland. How and when this might happen nobody can now predict. It could take centuries. It cannot even begin until there is stability and peace in the Muslim lands, and that is still a long way off.

ET: In one of your books you talk about a 100 million people “time bomb” that could go off in the Middle East, Europe, or both. What do you mean? Are European political leaders, especially on the liberal/progressive side, consciously aware of this risk?

HR: As long as there is ongoing turmoil in the whole Muslim sphere from Nigeria to Indonesia there will be millions of refugees escaping from the violence and even more economic migrants fleeing the poverty, especially in Africa. Many Muslim countries are failed states whose whole populations of tens of millions are in danger of mass starvation without extensive food aid. This is the case in Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and large parts of Syria and Iraq. In such places, all those who can muster the money to pay people smugglers are on their way to Europe. People smuggling is a multi-billion dollar industry.

The number of 100 million you quote is only a rough estimate of all those who would wish to escape their countries’ troubles. Most of them at present cannot afford the huge expense involved and many are afraid to risk the hazards of the passage. But as long as Europe maintains open borders and is prepared to accept those who reach their shores, then the flow will continue. At the moment it has ceased from Turkey because of the agreement that Angela Merkel reached with Erdogan. But this could break down at any moment if the Turks make blackmailing demands. With Libya in chaos, there is no way of stopping those who cross the Mediterranean to Italy.

European political leaders did not foresee this eventuality, though there were plenty of warnings, nor did they make provisions to meet it. The danger they now face in the immediate present is not so much from the immigrants themselves, though there is some infiltration of terrorists, as from their own populations. There is bound to be a strong reaction, especially in those countries already suffering from large levels of unemployment. This could bring xenophobic far-Right parties to power, who would then proceed to stop all immigration and make life difficult for those who have already arrived. This must be prevented even at the cost of stinting on humanitarian principles which were not designed for such eventualities of mass exodus.

Migration into Europe will have to be limited and controlled through legal channels. And much more attention will have to be given to addressing the causes that bring it about. European leaders cannot afford the luxury of a hands-off attitude to what is going on in the Muslim world. They will have to intervene both with money and manpower to help alleviate the situation there. They have been far too slow and ineffective in reacting to the rise of ISIS and other such terrorist movements. They leave the main burden to the Americans to bear, and America under President Obama, who went against the advice of most of his leading officials, has let them down by not doing anything until it was too late. This has been the greatest failure of American foreign policy during the Obama reign, but the Europeans, too, must bear part of the blame for their unconcern. In their EU paradise they thought they were immune from the troubles of the rest of the world.

ET: Let’s look at Russia now. While the transition post the fall of the Berlin Wall was extremely turbulent, it seems that the old oligarchal structure largely remained in place by simply changing names. In fact one notable feature of post-Communist regimes is how the former leaders avoided justice for the crimes that had been committed, with the exception of Cambodia. To what effect has that turbulence continued to shape the political and economic landscapes in Russia to this day? Corruption for one appears to remain problematic across many levels of government.

HR: Russia is a near neighbor of Europe, so what is going on there should also be of great concern to Europeans, and, in fact, it is. However, there is not much outside powers can do about what are largely internal developments in Russia. Obviously, it would be very dangerous to meddle in the internal affairs of a nuclear superpower.

Russia has transitioned from the post-Communist chaos of the incompetence of the Yeltsin years to the authoritarian order and stability of Putin. The early post-Communist hopes for a functioning democracy and an efficient free-market economy have not been realized. Russia is not going to become a Western society, even such as it was starting to be before the First World War. The clock cannot be turned back; too much as happened over the last century to disturb and disrupt Russian society, above, all the extermination of its elites.

Putin's Russia is an amalgamation of features from all the period of Russia's twentieth century history. There are elements both of democracy and autocratic rule from the Czarist period. The Russian Orthodox Church is also once again asserting its spiritual and temporal power. But at the same time aspects of a highly bureaucratic and controlling totalitarian state have survived from the Stalinist period. The secret service agencies, of which Putin was once a member, exercise complete surveillance over society. They are not above using strong-arm tactics, including murder, where necessary. The economy has largely fallen into the hands of oligarchs who can keep their ill-gotten gains, provided they are compliant with Putin's demands and in no way threaten his hold on power. This worked reasonably well as long as the price of oil and gas, the main export industries, was high. But now that it has fallen precipitously, this is bound to lead to a financial crisis for the state. How the Russian people will react to growing shortages remains to be seen, but they have usually been docile in such circumstances and stoically bear the penury that they take to be their fate.

One feature of this passivity has been the complete failure to bring to account any of those responsible for the mass crimes of the Stalin period. Even the victims who perished have by now been largely forgotten or remain un-memorialized and unremembered. For a while during the Yeltsin period there were organizations in Russia dedicated to the commemoration of the millions whose lives were taken, such as Pamyat and various other local groups. Under Putin these were discouraged, if not outright repressed. Stalin is once again hailed as one of the great rulers of Russia.

The effect has been a kind of pervasive demoralization that allows locally elected strong-men to dominate the lives of their fellow citizens and line their own pockets at their expense. This is graphically demonstrated in the 2014 Russian film “Leviathan” made by Andrey Zvyagintsev. One must assume that such corruption, both on the local and national level, in low and high places, is rife everywhere. However, the mere fact that such a film could be produced in Russia gives one some hope for the possibility of improvement.

ET: You mentioned Orthodox Christianity. It appears that it is making a comeback in the military and civil life, at least nominally. There is also a renewed emphasis on education, especially in the hard sciences. There was even talk of bringing back the descendants of the Russian czars to play some role in society. Can these e