The idea of a clash of civilizations can be originated largely to Samuel Huntington. He describes a future where the majority of human conflicts will be due to “cultural differences”. (Huntington). In The Butterfly Mosque, Willow Wilson, an American, travels to Egypt, converts to Islam, and marries an Egyptian man. This places her at the fault lines of two cultures. Through her experiences, she sees the frontlines of this clash of civilizations that Huntington predicted, and tries to uncover if she can thread the needle between her two cultures. In this paper, I will argue that through her experiences with Muslims in Tura, other Westerners in Egypt, and in reactions to her writings, she discovers that the clash of civilizations is real. This clash results in cruelty, fear, self-hatred, and an internal existential crisis in Willow that leaves her uncertain about whether or not she can navigate her internal clash of cultures.
Willow’s experiences in Tura with Muslims demonstrated the Muslim response to Western culture. In Tura, she is surrounded by a much more conservative group of people than were in Cairo. She felt the “anger” that people had towards the West (120). Between the West and Arabic cultures, there was “a pit full of dangers: poverty, terrorism, wars of attrition, racism, colonialism, and malice” (119). This bred distrust, and it was palpable to Willow. Between many of the inhabitants of Tura to Willow, there was a lack of compassion or care given to her. One