I've one reaction to the culture clash between the west and Islam - include me out. This is big think. And big thinking is bad thinking.
The first problem is that glib generalization leads us to think that there are clearly defined and demarcated cultures.
Put it this way. Both my dad and grandad had convictions for handling stolen goods. Does this mean fencing is part of my culture? If not, why not? What proportion of people must believe or do something (and how strongly and how closely to me) before it becomes part of my culture? And over what group of people do we define a culture? Why does it make sense to say that I am part "western culture" rather than "economists' culture" or "Leicester culture"?
These vaguenesses mean we take a pick-n-mix approach to defining culture. For most of you reading this (and me), I guess, "western culture" means liberalism more than it does imperialism and slavery. But is this just a self-serving bias?
Another bias in the clash of cultures is the group attribution error. Anong "us", bad people are exceptions. Among "them", wrong 'uns are representative of the general group.
So, to westerners, the soldiers who beat up Iraqis are exceptions. To Muslims, they are typical. To "us", suicide bombers are representative, whereas to Muslims, they are exceptions*. Few bother to ask: is the percentage of UK and US soldiers who beat up Iraqis statistically significantly different from the proportion of Muslims who are suicide bombers?
This bias is reinforced by another - the salience heuristic. We over-react to salient, available, information, and under-react to obscure information. To westerners, the everyday civilities of friends and neighbours are salient , whilst the brutalities of far-away soldiers are less so. And suicide bombings are salient, whilst the civilities of ordinary Muslims are less so. To Muslims, it's the other way round.
There's a third bias - outgroup homogeneity bias. "We" are diverse; "they" are homogenous. This reinforces our ability to regard brutal soldiers or imperialism as outliers within the rich variety of western culture, but to see all/most Muslims as fanatics. And, again, vice versa for Muslims.
Now, I'm not saying here that there is "cultural equivalence" between westernism and Islam; I don't know what that means.
Still less am I denying that some values are worth defending. I think liberty should be extended, even though many westerners - including our rulers - seem to think otherwise.
All I'm saying is that it's very hard to think clearly about big issues - especially when you don't even try. Which is why I prefer to think about smaller, provincial things.
* Yes, these are woeful generalizations.I express them thus for illustrative effect of likely differential dispositions, not 100% accuracy.