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Once a voiceless region dominated by authoritarian rulers, the Arab world seems to have developed an identity of its own almost overnight. The series of uprisings that began in 2010 profoundly altered politics in the region, forcing many experts to drastically revise their understandings of the Arab people. Yet while the Arab uprisings have indeed triggered seismic changes Once a voiceless region dominated by authoritarian rulers, the Arab world seems to have developed an identity of its own almost overnight. The series of uprisings that began in 2010 profoundly altered politics in the region, forcing many experts to drastically revise their understandings of the Arab people. Yet while the Arab uprisings have indeed triggered seismic changes, Arab public opinion has been a perennial but long ignored force influencing events in the Middle East. In The World Through Arab Eyes, eminent political scientist Shibley Telhami draws upon a decade’s worth of original polling data, probing the depths of the Arab psyche to analyze the driving forces and emotions of the Arab uprisings and the next phase of Arab politics. With great insight into the people and countries he has surveyed, Telhami provides a longitudinal account of Arab identity, revealing how Arabs’ present-day priorities and grievances have been gestating for decades. The demand for dignity foremost in the chants of millions went far beyond a straightforward struggle for food and individual rights. The Arabs’ cries were not simply a response to corrupt leaders, but were in fact inseparable from the collective respect they crave from the outside world. Decades of perceived humiliations at the hands of the West have left many Arabs with a wounded sense of national pride, but also a desire for political systems with elements of Western democracies—an apparent contradiction that is only one of many complicating our understanding of the monumental shifts in Arab politics and society. In astonishing detail and with great humanity, Telhami identifies the key prisms through which Arabs view issues central to their everyday lives, from democracy to religion to foreign relations with Iran, Israel, the United States, and other world powers. The World Through Arab Eyes reveals the hearts and minds of a people often misunderstood but ever more central to our globalized world.


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Once a voiceless region dominated by authoritarian rulers, the Arab world seems to have developed an identity of its own almost overnight. The series of uprisings that began in 2010 profoundly altered politics in the region, forcing many experts to drastically revise their understandings of the Arab people. Yet while the Arab uprisings have indeed triggered seismic changes Once a voiceless region dominated by authoritarian rulers, the Arab world seems to have developed an identity of its own almost overnight. The series of uprisings that began in 2010 profoundly altered politics in the region, forcing many experts to drastically revise their understandings of the Arab people. Yet while the Arab uprisings have indeed triggered seismic changes, Arab public opinion has been a perennial but long ignored force influencing events in the Middle East. In The World Through Arab Eyes, eminent political scientist Shibley Telhami draws upon a decade’s worth of original polling data, probing the depths of the Arab psyche to analyze the driving forces and emotions of the Arab uprisings and the next phase of Arab politics. With great insight into the people and countries he has surveyed, Telhami provides a longitudinal account of Arab identity, revealing how Arabs’ present-day priorities and grievances have been gestating for decades. The demand for dignity foremost in the chants of millions went far beyond a straightforward struggle for food and individual rights. The Arabs’ cries were not simply a response to corrupt leaders, but were in fact inseparable from the collective respect they crave from the outside world. Decades of perceived humiliations at the hands of the West have left many Arabs with a wounded sense of national pride, but also a desire for political systems with elements of Western democracies—an apparent contradiction that is only one of many complicating our understanding of the monumental shifts in Arab politics and society. In astonishing detail and with great humanity, Telhami identifies the key prisms through which Arabs view issues central to their everyday lives, from democracy to religion to foreign relations with Iran, Israel, the United States, and other world powers. The World Through Arab Eyes reveals the hearts and minds of a people often misunderstood but ever more central to our globalized world.

30 review for The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East

  1. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    Shibley Telhami has been polling the Arab world for 2 decades. He explains how he samples opinion in countries where many worry about repercussions of their response. Sometimes he works with Zogby, other times he'll sample postings on major message boards. Since people cannot be questioned head on about policies in their own country; respondents are asked about other countries, for instance, whom they admire outside of their country, which country represents the best democracy, etc. Telhami must Shibley Telhami has been polling the Arab world for 2 decades. He explains how he samples opinion in countries where many worry about repercussions of their response. Sometimes he works with Zogby, other times he'll sample postings on major message boards. Since people cannot be questioned head on about policies in their own country; respondents are asked about other countries, for instance, whom they admire outside of their country, which country represents the best democracy, etc. Telhami must have a lot of data but tends to present more narrative. For example, selected answers for the question about what country respondents would like to live in is given as a narrative on p. 44. This question is revisited on p. 122, also in a narrative. On p. 180, finally, a chart shows two sample years in aggregate. In place of the text, I'd have preferred the full longitudinal answers for each of the 6 Arab countries polled. While the data comes from 6 countries, most of the charts have it all aggregated. There are no break downs by gender or age. I did not know such identifiers were used until it appeared (in the narrative) in the text half way through the book. For those informed about this area of the world there are some new insights but no surprises. For instance: the graphs on p. 90 show the different views in the 6 countries on who won the Lebanon-Israeli war; the graphs on pp. 160-161 show opinion on the role of clergy in government. No informed person should be surprised that in these 6 countries resentment of US is not that freedoms are hated, it is that the US supports Israel; No one should be surprised that people in these 6 countries do not believe that the Iraq war was about democracy. Much of the narrative is self-evident from the data, and/or restates things people who tend to read a book with this title would know. The exception, for me, was the background on Arab TV and the changing views on Iran. The book is important but would have been better with a lot more data and less narrative.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emma S

    One poll per year for 10 years. 3,000 people per poll, theoretically covering 15 nations. Other than simplistic conclusions drawn from this limited sample (and with no discussion of margins of error until the appendix) nothing to see here and very dryly written.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Yasmine

    Author: Shibley Telhami (he is Palestinian-American Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park) This book gives a sight of what is going on around you with no bias only documented facts and surveys about the arab world. My only problem with the book is that it was published in 2013 and a lot has changed since then; while it has helped me understand A LOT about what is happening now in the arab world, I only hoped this book was written in the Author: Shibley Telhami (he is Palestinian-American Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park) This book gives a sight of what is going on around you with no bias only documented facts and surveys about the arab world. My only problem with the book is that it was published in 2013 and a lot has changed since then; while it has helped me understand A LOT about what is happening now in the arab world, I only hoped this book was written in the midst of what is happening now so I can get an even deeper understanding. The book generally is not an opinion book, it is very fact based. This book took me 2 weeks to read due to all the facts presented in the book; which I liked because I rarely found any bias from the writer. For the writer to write the book he used 6 Arab countries for surveying: Egypt UAE Morocco Lebanon Jordan Saudi Arabia The book is very well written, the writer introduces the meaning of Arab identity and how important it is to Arabs to feel a sense of humility and dignity “Karamah” not just about the relationship between the government and its citizens but between the nation and the outside world and how hard it is to separate both. The book goes on to talk about the main source of information and how cybermedia was not the cause of the Arab Spring but a tool and of course the traditional media played a role, the relationship between the viewership and one’s opinion, and the power behind the media AKA the benfectors of certain channels and how that affects the content of the channel. Incitement, Empathy, Opinions, their relationship to identity and how they are affected in the time of conflict with their opponent and the civilian casualties of their opponents. The book also brushes on the prism of pain which Arabs tend to see the world which is the Palestinian/Isaerlie conflict and how arabs view their up raising in each country. Facts about how Arabs view the US and Iran, their values and policies; also how men perceive women in the workforce and how the booming oil industry has been a cause for a gender gap in the workforce especially in the Gulf Countries. How the peaceful events of Tahrir square have changed the 9/11 prism that Americans always viewed Arabs from; which made Americans views of Arabs more favourable. Disclaimer: Whatever I write here to explain the book is barely touching the surface of what is in the book; the book is full of facts and I present here only about 1% of them

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This book covers extensive public opinion surveys among the majority of Arab nations at the time of the Arab uprisings of 2011, and looks at their opinions on politics, international relations, religion, etc. I would recommend the book because of the large amount of information in it from the surveys, but the writing style is a bit clunky. Plus, it is a bit dated, as I would suspect many of the opinions have changed over the past five years. Still, it is a good introduction to what Arabs were th This book covers extensive public opinion surveys among the majority of Arab nations at the time of the Arab uprisings of 2011, and looks at their opinions on politics, international relations, religion, etc. I would recommend the book because of the large amount of information in it from the surveys, but the writing style is a bit clunky. Plus, it is a bit dated, as I would suspect many of the opinions have changed over the past five years. Still, it is a good introduction to what Arabs were thinking at the time of the beginning of the uprisings, and is valuable for that reason.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Yupa

    Il libro è uscito a inizio Giugno 2013 e già oggi, a fine Luglio (neanche due mesi dopo) i più recenti eventi in Egitto vanno a superarlo. Eppure non risulta obsoleto ma, anzi, resta utile per farsi un'idea su come gli ultimi vent'anni in Medio Oriente siano stati visti dall'interno, e soprattutto sui cambiamenti a cui aspira chi il Medio Oriente lo abita. L'autore ha fatto una pioggia di sondaggi nel corso di tutti questi anni e ora propone in un unico volume i risultati ottenuti, cercando di tir Il libro è uscito a inizio Giugno 2013 e già oggi, a fine Luglio (neanche due mesi dopo) i più recenti eventi in Egitto vanno a superarlo. Eppure non risulta obsoleto ma, anzi, resta utile per farsi un'idea su come gli ultimi vent'anni in Medio Oriente siano stati visti dall'interno, e soprattutto sui cambiamenti a cui aspira chi il Medio Oriente lo abita. L'autore ha fatto una pioggia di sondaggi nel corso di tutti questi anni e ora propone in un unico volume i risultati ottenuti, cercando di tirare le somme. Personalmente, pur sapendo molto poco di questioni arabe e circumvicine, ho ottenuto delle conferme ad alcuni sospetti che già avevo. La questione religiosa, la questione dell'Islam, ha un suo peso ma non è fondamentale. George W. Bush amava dire che "ci odiano per la nostra libertà", ma il nodo del problema è tutt'altro che ideologico. Rinvenire cause ideologiche o culturali dei problemi di solito è il lusso di chi ha il coltello dalla parte del manico. E visto che il Medio Oriente è costellato di basi militari americane e, a vario titolo, di truppe europe e americane, mentre negli Stati Uniti o in Europa non mi risulta siano di stanza truppe saudite, libiche o irachene... direi che i rapporti di forza siano piuttosto chiari. E il problema sono proprio questi rapporti di forza, il problema è che per decenni Stati Uniti e alleati hanno parlato tanto di democrazia e diritti, ma intanto hanno dato pieno sostegno ai peggiori regimi autoritarî dei paesi arabi, riservandosi il diritto di interventi armati (spesso devastanti in termini di danni materiali e umani) quando il dittatore di turno cominciava a far troppo di testa sua; e al contempo agitando capziosamente presso le opinioni pubbliche europee e americane l'idea che, in fondo, a dar troppa democrazia agli arabi si rischia l'avvento di integralisti, fondamentalisti e via dicendo. Magari dimenticandosi che in paesi come l'Arabia Saudita l'integralismo è già al potere... ma a quanto pare ci sono integralismi buoni ed integralismi cattivi. Tanto che i primi casi meritano l'appellativo di "paesi arabi moderati": ma moderati verso chi? Sicuramente verso Washington e Londra, non so quanto verso le proprie popolazioni e i loro diritti basilari. A simbolo cruciale di questa sudditanza (sudditanza verso regimi invisi e verso paesi stranieri), le opinioni pubbliche arabe erigono, a torto o a ragione, l'annosa questione israelo-palestinese: è qui che viene misurata la capacità dei governanti locali di farsi valere, nonché l'eventuale simpatia da concedere alle amministrazioni statunitensi o ai governi europei. Forse è una semplificazione brutale, ma il presidente U.S.A. che riuscisse a portare (forse sarebbe meglio dire: imporre) una pace giusta e duratura tra israeliani e palestinesi, farebbe più di tutti gli altri tentativi, riusciti o meno, sinceri o ipocriti, di "esportare la democrazia" in Medio Oriente visti finora. E le masse arabe lo saluterebbero come un eroe. E sarebbe certo impresa eroica, considerando quanto sia inestricabile il groviglio della questione israelo-palestinese e come sia scarsa, a tutt'oggi, la volontà delle varie parti in causa anche solo di dialogarne. E personalmente spero di sbagliare, ma nonostante il primo timido appoggio di Obama alle rivolte arabe, le recentissime vicende egizie mi inducono al pessimismo... Segnalo infine che la lettura del libro è utile anche per farsi un'idea sul processo di ascesa dei grandi media arabi trans-nazionali come Al-Jazeera e Al-Arabiya e sul loro peso nella politica della regione (peso su cui l'autore è scettico); è utile anche per chiarirsi le differenze, spesso cruciali, tra i varî paesi dell'area, che a uno sguardo esterno e poco esperto rischiano sempre di trasformarsi un blocco indifferenziato, dal Marocco sino all'Iraq e oltre sino al Pakistan.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    this book is a collection of polling data analysis done from 2001 to 2012 on public opinion in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Israel (Palestine), Jordan, Morroco. It gives a feel to public perceptions in these countries about their own govt. attitudes towards politics, religion and countries like the U.S., Israel, Russia, China, Turkey and countries in Western Europe. It is not entirely a surprise to find a low opinion of the U.S. among people in these Arab States. They view the U.S. and this book is a collection of polling data analysis done from 2001 to 2012 on public opinion in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Israel (Palestine), Jordan, Morroco. It gives a feel to public perceptions in these countries about their own govt. attitudes towards politics, religion and countries like the U.S., Israel, Russia, China, Turkey and countries in Western Europe. It is not entirely a surprise to find a low opinion of the U.S. among people in these Arab States. They view the U.S. and Israel as the main threats in the region with Iran trailing a distant third. When asked which country among China, Russia, France, U.K., U.S., Germany and Turkey the would like the most to live in the U.S. came in second to last with France being number one. What motivates U.S. policy? most people in these countries think National interest and Domestic Politics (realistic), Christian anti-Islam made a significant showing however on the list. What about religion and the role for women. On a question of whether clerics had too much power, too little or just right in most countries Just right received the most votes followed closely by not enough with too much being the least voted for. Lebanon was an exception where too much was number one. In fact Lebanon was an outlier looking more secular than the bunch. Attitudes towards women with a question should women be allowed to work outside the home. The choices were never, only if necessary to support the family, always. The answer only if necessary for the family did the best followed by never, with only a small portion saying always. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are the oddballs here saying always and that is a bit of a surprise to me. There were also polls done on the U.S. people and their attitudes towards the middle east More Americans today have an negative view of Islam than ten years ago. Most Americans say we should favor no side of the Israel/Palestine conflict with the a smaller group saying we should favor Israel and a tiny group saying we should support Palestinians. Support for Israel is higher among Republicans and people who think the Arab/Israeli conflict is a number one issue. It drops off with people who don't think it is important. Among The Arab negative opinions of the U.S. the number one reason given is the support to Israel in the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Interesting stuff and gives numbers to what these countries' peoples feel about religion, politics and the U.S.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    I highly recommend this book for its insights into the Arab identity and the problems the Western world has helped create in the Middle East. The writing is clear and easy to follow. The author is kind enough to repeat many of his theses throughout the chapters, I suspect in case the reader chooses to read only a few chapters. I read the whole book, and was glad for it, and enjoyed it immensely. The author does not talk down to the Western reader nor does he show a huge bias. He makes his case, I highly recommend this book for its insights into the Arab identity and the problems the Western world has helped create in the Middle East. The writing is clear and easy to follow. The author is kind enough to repeat many of his theses throughout the chapters, I suspect in case the reader chooses to read only a few chapters. I read the whole book, and was glad for it, and enjoyed it immensely. The author does not talk down to the Western reader nor does he show a huge bias. He makes his case, cites statistics and historical events, and weaves it all together at the end with eight conclusions for what happens next. A must read for the US voter.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennings Peeler

    • The value a book which discusses public opinion polls while attempting to explain "today" is sourced completely in its "timeliness." This book's polling data are stale and history has run right over and past its conclusions…some books need to be easily updated web sites and this is one of those… •

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    • The value a book which discusses public opinion polls while attempting to explain "today" is sourced completely in its "timeliness." This book's polling data are stale and history has run right over and past its conclusions…some books need to be easily updated web sites and this is one of those… •

  10. 4 out of 5

    William

    The big picture revealed here won't be news to anyone familiar with the Middle East. That said, some of the subtler nuances are very enlightening. I found myself wishing that Telhami had included all of his raw polling data as an appendix. He provides his stats where necessary, but it would be nice to have more. I suppose, however, that would end in an impractically large and unwieldy tome.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hacksaw

    A distillation of some good academic work, the author is good at explaining the attitudes being found, and how they were discovered. Importance was place on the methods, and possible failings of same. In all, this is a very readable book which I recommend to anyone wanting to understand the current Middle East better.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cate

    Polled Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, KSA, Morocco & UAE. Some interesting results:" Preferred World Power (2205-11)": China, "Country with the Most Freedom and Democracy for Their People ('04-10)": France, "Preferred Political System ('11)": Turkey. Polled Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, KSA, Morocco & UAE. Some interesting results:" Preferred World Power (2205-11)": China, "Country with the Most Freedom and Democracy for Their People ('04-10)": France, "Preferred Political System ('11)": Turkey.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chet Herbert

    One of the must reads about the modern Middle East. A fascinating look at 10 years of Arab public opinion polls with exceptional analysis and historical context by Shibley Telhami.

  14. 4 out of 5

    ej cullen

    Each 'nation' thinks and acts in its own best interests. What's new about that?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Raven

    A nice mix of qualitative and quantitative data. I especially enjoyed his discussion on identity.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    Dry....but informative. Really gives you an idea how we're viewed by Arabs and Muslims.

  17. 4 out of 5

    RP

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sole Mar

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ray Winter

  21. 5 out of 5

    CybcA╥

  22. 5 out of 5

    Josh Model

  23. 4 out of 5

    jessica

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Zareva

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ginny

  27. 4 out of 5

    NathalieB

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barrie Dubois

  29. 5 out of 5

    Spencer

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mohamed

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