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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, 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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