by Brian Whitaker
Paperback, ISBN 978-0-86356-624-0
Everyone agrees there is something wrong in the Middle East. To western eyes it is a troubled region of dictators and extremists. Arabs, on the other hand, often blame centuries of western interference. To many – both east and west – the root problem is a lack of freedom, but what exactly does that mean? Is it just a matter of toppling autocratic regimes and holding free elections?
Looking beyond the turmoil reported on our TV screens, journalist Brian Whitaker examines the "freedom deficit" as it affects Arabs in their daily lives: their struggles against corruption, discrimination and bureaucracy, and the authoritarianism that pervades homes, schools and mosques – as well as presidential palaces – stifling fresh ideas and initiative.
Drawing on a wealth of new research and wide-ranging interviews, Whitaker analyses the views of people living in the region and argues that in order to achieve peace, prosperity and full participation in today’s global economy, Arabs should embrace not only political change but far-reaching social and cultural change as well.
Brian Whitaker, a former Middle East editor of the Guardian, is also the author of Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East, The Birth of Modern Yemen (e-book), and Arabs Without God.
"A passionate call for political and social change in Arab countries ... and a stern critique of the status quo."
Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East Editor
[Should] be required reading by Arab elites from the Atlantic to the Gulf... This book will anger some and excite others. It is one of the most ambitious attempts in recent years by a western writer to analyse what is really wrong with the Middle East.
Patrick Seale, al-Hayat
Whitaker writes with empathy and insight about the many ills that afflict Arab society ... a lively, highly readable and illuminating survey.
Avi Shlaim, The Guardian
“Brian Whitaker knows the Arab world. At a time when various media are closing their bureaus in the region and resort to parachuting in journalists, his latest book comes as a welcome breath of fresh knowledge and insight. He doesn’t pontificate to Arabs but gives voice instead to the wide network of Arabs he knows well. The kaleidoscope of views and voices he’s gathered here disarms lazy generalisations about the 'Arab Street' and shows that for all its problems, the region has plenty of men and women who want to fix what’s really wrong with it.”
Mona Eltahawy, columnist and public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues.
"The book represents such a disturbing notion of cultural bias that it would be unsavoury for any God-fearing Arab to open it."
Sumayyah Meehan, Elan website
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