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Book Reviews

The Arab World Explained to America

 

Title:

 

Arab Insight.

 

Vol.1, N.1, Spring 2007

 

 

 

Publisher:

 

World Security Institute.

 

Washington, DC

 

 

 

 

 

In more than one occasion over recent years the American government has shown that it has serious difficulties in understanding the various cultures of the Middle East. The errors that have been committed in the attempt to re-organise post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and the stances adopted in relation to the Palestinian government of Hamas or the realities of the Lebanon, in the view of many Middle Eastern observers, are signs of this lack of understanding. It is on the basis of these premises that the non-profit making research centre, World Security Institute, with its base in Washington, has launched a three-monthly review, Arab Insight, which seeks to bring new Arab voices and perspectives to the attention of the decision-making centres of the American capital.

 

 

The government of Washington, Congress, the American think-tanks, the world of lobbies, and more in general experts in international affairs, are the interlocutors at whom the review is directed, and the promoters of this review argue that they are presenting ‘voices that have not hitherto been listened to’ in the American capital.

 

 

Arab Insight is produced in the Cairo offices of the World Security Institute and contains articles originally written in Arabic by scholars and experts of the whole of the Middle East which are then translated into English and intended for an American reading public. ‘These articles’, explains Whitney Parke, director of communications of the World Security Institute, ‘offer policy-makers and the general public an opportunity to obtain a more accurate and precise perspective on the region from those who live there’. The review says that it is independent and those in charge of it emphasise that they receive funds neither from the American government nor from governments of the Arab world. ‘We are a source of impartial and not factious information on the Arab world for an American and Western public’, its promoters explain.

 

 

Edited by Mohamed Elmenshawy, who is already responsible for Taqrir Washington, an on-line publication that explains America to the Arab world, the new review will devote each edition to a single topic which will then be addressed by various voices. The first edition has as its title ‘Islam, Political Islam and America’ and brings together contributions from Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Morocco, and Syria. In the various articles questions are asked about American foreign policy from the perspective of the Middle East. The Egyptian Khalil al-Anani, for example, engages in an in-depth analysis of the vision of the United States of America held by the Muslim Brothers, and his contribution is supported by an interview with one of the leaders of this movement, Essam al-Iryan. Other articles try to examine the reasons why in appearance America is ready to accept certain Islamic movement but then rejects and fights others – a survey that ranges from Egypt to the Lebanon and on to the occupied territories, addresses the question of relations with the Shiites in Iraq, and then goes on to the Maghreb.

 

 

The second part of the first edition of the review, on the other hand, offers an analysis of the positions of the Islamist movements in their respective societies and attempts to address the subject of Islamic governance and the relationship between Islam and the idea of democracy. Jumana Shehata, a journalist of the Daily Star Egypt, ventures into the sensitive terrain of the relationship between Islam and human rights, addressing, for example, the reality of women in the light of the sharia. This writer does not fail to emphasise how Islamic legislation is more fluid and in evolution that is normally thought, and stresses that many people in the Islamic world think that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘which was drafted in Western countries, to be based upon ideals that have roots in Christianity and the Western history’, and is thus difficult to integrate into the history and the culture of Muslim countries.

 

 

For further information on this review and to download the on-line version, see the Internet site of its research centre:

 

 

www.worldsecurityinstitute.org

 

 

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