The UN General Assembly proclaimed 2001 as the Year of Dialogue among Civilisations.
In the wake of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings, the attack on America, and the attack on the cities, we have been treated to a jumble of discourses, 'dialogue' of a sort. Media favourites have included:
|• Western superiority and the inferiority of others|
|• The defence of democracy|
|• Manichean discourses of good and evil|
Some of these discourses were dropped, notably President Bush's deployment of 'Crusade',
3 a term capable of evoking the demons of history in the Middle East. 'Just war' and 'Jihad' appear to have endured, enjoying a complementary if not symbiotic relationship.
4 Statesmen have taken pains to avoid the hypothesis of wars of religion
5 and 'the clash of civilisations',
6 and even if the Prime Minister of Italy expressed confidence in the superiority of the West, he issued a (partial?) retraction soon afterwards. Triumphalism is to be avoided but remains a temptation for Western leaders and public. Legal analyses emerged rapidly in the present crisis in the face of the burgeoning discourse of 'security',
7 and the discourse of international law and human rights gained some ground. The paper briefly examines key