USING Islam as a vehicle for political ambitions is not new. The Umayyads used it after the Prophet's death to set up a dynastic rule. Three of the four caliphs who succeeded Muhammad were assassinated in the context of political power games presented as religious disputes.
Fast forward to the 19th century, and the Persian adventurer Jamaleddin Assadabadi, who disguised himself as an Afghan to hide his Shiite origin and set out to build a career in the mostly Sunni land of Egypt. Although a Freemason, Jamal (who dubbed himself Sayyed Gamal) concluded that the only way to win power among Muslims was by appealing to their religious sentiments. So he transformed himself into an Islamic scholar, grew an impressive beard and donned a huge black turban to underline his claim of being a descendant of the Prophet.
His partner was Mirza Malkam Khan, an Armenian who claimed to have converted to Islam. Together, they launched the idea of an "Islamic Renaissance" (An-Nahda) and promoted the concept of a "perfect Islamic government" under an "enlightened despot."
Malkam had a slogan of unrivaled cynicism: "Tell the Muslims something is in the Koran, and they will die for you."
It does not matter whether the West view this as a clash of civilization. All it takes is one side to make it a clash. In someways I am reminded of the boxer rebellion (faith is not enough) as the Muslim world is in no position to war against the West, not since 1529 (the Battle of Vienna in 1683 only confirmed the peak of Ottoman power was 150 years before) and is unlikely to challenge the West in the forseable future militarily or economically. Sure they have oil but the world knows that it is only a matter of time before an alternative energy source is found.