The University of the Indian Ocean, which was previously known as a private medical college run by Prof. Baligadoo, organized a Panel on Thursday 18th September at the Municipal Council Meeting Room on the controversial book, "Clash of Civilizations" by the American ideologue, Samuel Huntington.
The speakers were the famous Francophone author, Jean Marie Leclesio, a Frenchman of Mauritian ancestry, and the Mauritian literary critic, Issa Asgarally. Both speakers described the book as "dangerous", and in the speeches and the pre-Panel publicity, the book was compared with Hitler's "Mein Kampf". Issa Asgarally said the book should "not be burnt". Neither speaker made it very clear exactly what was dangerous, nor what to do in the face of this danger. Nor was it clearly explained why the Panel was organized at all. Issa Asgarally deplored the fact that the book was not available in bookshops in Mauritius. He opposed the Huntington "Thesis" of a "clash" of civilizations with his own work on "L'Interculturelle".
Time left for debate from the public was rather meagre.
However, the first speaker from the floor, Dr. Fayez Bitash, produced a formidable critique of the Huntington apology for capitalism, imperialism and US war-mongering. This left the speakers rather taken aback, and organizers signaling one another to cut him short.
He was followed by Lindsey Collen, LALIT member, who concurred with what Dr. Bitash had said. She added that she agreed with the Panel speakers that the book was a danger but that she was not in agreement with them when they said the book was "serious" research. She said that, in her opinion, any potential reader could choose any 20 pages, read them, and get the gist of the Huntington thesis. What was necessary, she said, was to oppose his "justifications' for Western and, in particular, US domination, exploitation and wars of aggression.
Later, after closing words by the guest of honour Mr. Leclesio, Mr. Asgarally once again took the microphone. He then tore into Lindsey Collen, accusing her of wanting to "burn the book". Lindsey Collen stood up from the floor and protested. Mr. Asgarally continued. Lindsey Collen then, on a point of order, requested the chair, Prof. Baligadoo, to take note that Mr. Asgarally was saying she had said things she had never said.
Jean Claude Bibi, barrister at law, then, after the debate had been hastily closed down by Prof Baligadoo, addressed the crowded audience, saying that Mr. Asgarally had intentionally misconstrued what Lindsey Collen had said.
Afterwards, on the Municipality verandah, a heated debate continued.
LALIT members have been following Samuel Huntington's building an ideological scaffolding for the Bush administration and the so-called "neo-conservatives" or "neo-cons" in the US. His main thesis is that there is no longer any clash of ideas (didn't the USSR implode?). Of course, he implies there never was a clash of classes. So, now there is a clash of, supposedly, seven different "civilizations". This is so much fig leaf, for saying the US (the core leader of one of the seven "civilizations") must be "muscular" in its defense against the "clash" from Islam (another of the "civilizations"). Lest, he says, the West be defeated.