Arabs in the Mirror
Images and Self-Images from Pre-Islamic to Modern Times
224 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.70 in
Sales Date: April 1, 2008
What is an Arab? Though many in the West would answer that question with simplistic stereotypes, the reality is far more complex and interesting. Arabs themselves have been debating Arab identity since pre-Islamic times, coming to a variety of conclusions about the nature and extent of their “Arabness.” Likewise, Westerners and others have attempted to analyze Arab identity, reaching mostly negative conclusions about Arab culture and capacity for self-government.
To bring new perspectives to the question of Arab identity, Iraqi-born scholar Nissim Rejwan has assembled this fascinating collection of writings by Arab and Western intellectuals, who try to define what it means to be Arab. He begins with pre-Islamic times and continues to the last decades of the twentieth century, quoting thinkers ranging from Ibn Khaldun to modern writers such as al-Ansari, Haykal, Ahmad Amin, al-'Azm, and Said. Through their works, Rejwan shows how Arabs have grappled with such significant issues as the influence of Islam, the rise of nationalism, the quest for democracy, women's status, the younger generation, Egypt's place in the Arab world, Israel's role in Middle Eastern conflict, and the West's "cultural invasion."
By letting Arabs speak for themselves, Arabs in the Mirror refutes a prominent Western stereotype—that Arabs are incapable of self-reflection or self-government. On the contrary, it reveals a rich tradition of self-criticism and self-knowledge in the Arab world.
This book is unique in that it lets its subjects speak for themselves, allowing readers to share some of the most intimate thoughts of the Arabs. . . . The work humanizes a people who have frequently been dismissed by many in the West as without culture and the capacity for reflection. This, in my view, is what makes the book a very significant contribution to the field. . . . It should broadly appeal to the general reader in the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Relationships with the Arab world are central to all of these regions.~Joseph V. Montville
- Prologue. The Bedouin, the Camel, the Sand, and the Palm Tree
- One. Identity and Self-Definition
- Two. Ibn Khaldun's Appraisal Appraised
- Three. "Arabizing the Arabs"
- Four. Self-Images Old and New
- Five. Calls for "Critical Self-Analysis"
- Six. Unity in Diversity
- Seven. The Quest for Democracy
- Eight. Resources and Development
- Nine. The Social Scene
- Ten. The Case of Egypt
- Eleven. The West's Inroads
- Twelve. The Difference Israel Has Made
- Thirteen. New Lessons for Old
- Fourteen. The Intellectuals
- Appendix. Portraits in a Mirror: Three Fictional Versions